The “Prime Effect” is real.
With his coaching skills, brash confidence and quotable aphorisms, head coach Deion Sanders has led the University of Colorado Boulder football program to a 3-0 record and top 20 ranking.
During just his first season coaching the team, Sanders, known as “Prime Time” when he played in the NFL and now called “Coach Prime,” has already made his team the most talked-about in college football. The team was 1-11 the season before he took over, and in last place in its conference.
But last weekend’s Colorado game drew 9.3 million viewers, making it the most-watched late-night college football game ever on ESPN. It also drew lots of stars in-person, including rappers Lil Wayne and Offset, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and NBA players Kyle Lowry and Kawhi Leonard.
The success and publicity have helped make many around Sanders wealthy.
Colorado’s top three NIL earners this season are coach Sanders’s kids Shedeur and Shilo, and Travis Hunter. All three players transferred to Colorado from HBCU Jackson State last season, the school where Sanders coached in 2022.
And his players have taken advantage of their newfound fame by cashing in on name, image and likeness (NIL) deals, to the tune of millions of dollars.
Perhaps most notable among them is his son, junior quarterback Shedeur Sanders. The 21-year old Sanders made headlines after throwing for 510 yards and four touchdowns in Colorado’s opening win shocker of no. 17 ranked TCU. Since then, he’s thrown six more touchdowns in two games and led the team to two more victories.
The younger Sanders has more than 2 million followers on social media and has already inked several big brand deals, including with yogurt company Oikos, Gatorade and Mercedes-Benz — he has shown fans his new cars from Mercedes-Benz on social media a few times.
Through his stellar play, Shedeur also attracted the attention of another quarterback, Tom Brady, who inked the dynamic college sensation to an endorsement deal with his clothing company Brandy Brand last October.
“I think he needs to get his (butt) in the film room and spend as much time in there as possible,” Brady joked with the young QB during a recent taping of his podcast “Let’s Go.”
Overall, Shedeur Sanders has an NIL value of approximately $5.1 million according to On3’s proprietary NIL algorithm, compared with “only” $1.5 million at the beginning of the year, the most of any college football player in the nation. On3’s algorithm includes a combination of NIL deal data, performance, influence and exposure.
While Shedeur Sanders is the headliner when it comes to NIL deals at Colorado, he’s not the only one. Travis Hunter, a five-star sophomore prospect, has an On3 NIL valuation of $2.2 million, the fourth highest among all college football players. Hunter’s NIL value was $1.7 million at the beginning of the year.
Hunter is a special talent who plays wide receiver on offense and cornerback on defense, a rarity for a top player. He has 1.8 million followers on social media, a successful YouTube channel, and endorsements with Celsius Energy Drink and 7-Eleven.
Hunter entered this season as the most highly touted prospect for Colorado, and coach Sanders said rival teams attempted to poach him away from them with lucrative NIL deals.
“People offered Travis Hunter a bag. About $1.5 million to try to lure him and buy him out of the transfer portal,” coach Sanders told 247Sports over the summer. “But Travis is not the kind of guy that can be bought. He isn’t built like that. Travis is a relational young man that is built on relationships and stability. And that’s what he wanted and desired. That is why he decided to ride and stay with us.”
Coach Sanders’s other son on the team, Shilo, is also a top NIL earner. A senior defensive back who scored on a fumble-turned-touchdown during the Buffaloes’s week 2 win over crosstown rival Colorado State University, Shilo’s NIL value per On3 sits at $719,000. He has NIL deals with Porsche, Oikos, and KFC. Shilo’s 2022 NIL value was at $575,000 at the end of last year.
The NCAA started allowing college athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness in 2021, ending a years-long crusade by many student athletes. As one might expect, football is the college sport that attracts the most NIL deals, followed by men’s basketball, women’s volleyball and women’s basketball, according to NIL platform Opendorse.
“NIL money, that’s a real part of college football now,” former University of Colorado and NFL football player Tyler Polumbus told CBS shortly after Sanders took the coaching job at Colorado. “I never thought that Colorado would be able to live in that world and compete in that world, but with Deion Sanders, it becomes a whole new land of opportunity.”
From the archives (2022): Women are set to make more money than men on NIL deals in college basketball
What about coach Sanders? He’s getting paid too.
In addition to the $33.5 million he made while playing in the NFL, coach Sanders has a 5-year contract with the University of Colorado worth $29.5 million, first reported by the Mississippi Clarion Ledger, with various escalators tied to performance.
If coach Sanders continues to have success at Colorado, perhaps more traditional football powerhouse schools may come calling with even bigger offers. Before he started this season at Colorado, he coached at HBCU Jackson State University in 2020 – and earned TK
In addition to making his players money, Sanders is also making the school and brands attached to him money.
He’s helped the school sell out all tickets to home games this season, the first time in program history, and he’s selling tens of thousands of $67 “Prime 21” sunglasses, which were only open for pre-order and won’t ship until December. He’s also helping sell out merchandise at Colorado’s bookstore (up 819% from 2022) and several varieties of Colorado-themed Prime gear are sold out at Nike’s online store.
Next up for coach Sanders: trademarks. The six-time NFL All-Pro, two-time Super Bowl champion, and Hall of Famer filed trademarks for “Coach Prime,” “Prime Effect,” “Daddy Buck,” and “It’s Personal,” according to attorney Josh Gerben of Gerben Intellectual Property.
The Colorado Buffaloes play their next game against the Oregon Ducks on Saturday at 3:30 EST. The Ducks are ranked no. 10 in the nation, compared with Buffaloes who are ranked no. 19.
The Ducks are favored to win by 21 points by the DraftKings oddsmakers, but 81% of all bets have been placed on Colorado.