Mac Engel: Deion Sanders' epic collapse in Year 1 has one big benefit for all of college football

Head coach Deion Sanders looks on during the first half as the Colorado Buffaloes play the UCLA Bruins at Rose Bowl Stadium on Oct. 28, 2023 in Pasadena, California. (RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post/TNS)
Head coach Deion Sanders looks on during the first half as the Colorado Buffaloes play the UCLA Bruins at Rose Bowl Stadium on Oct. 28, 2023 in Pasadena, California. (RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post/TNS)

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Deion Sanders may coach Colorado to Bill McCartney-level heights but at least one piece to Prime's grand plan has, thankfully, blown up in those gold-tinted shades.

Part of his approach and execution to re-building the Buffaloes was bold, arrogant, mean and a flop.

All of the chatter, hype and noise echoing from Boulder faded into a mouse-like squeak in these final two-plus months of the season. Prime may keep receipts, but so does football.

America's final response to Deion's question of "Do you believe?" after CU defeated TCU in Week 1 is, "Dude, you're 4-8."

Every single major college football program should learn something from Colorado's spectacular 1-8 finish.

Even in our portal world, where players can change teams like underwear, there is no short cut to winning. Winning takes time. Winning is hard.

Colorado football has been awful for a long time for a reason. The scoreboard determines the winner, not an interview with 60 Minutes.

The college football season is over, and the NCAA transfer season has unofficially begun. Players who wish to put their names in the portal to find a different school must wait technically until Dec. 4, but the process has already started.

After Sanders left Jackson State for Boulder, he ran off everyone but the janitorial staff. He brought in more than 70 new players, nearly all of them via the transfer portal. Only nine scholarship players from the 2022 team returned for '23.

At the time, he said, "It had to be done." In this era of college athletics, Deion operated within a rule book that functions more like a guideline printed in invisible ink.

This method made a lot of coaches angry, namely Nebraska's Matt Rhule and Pittsburgh's Pat Narduzzi.

It should be noted CU was not the only program to dramatically flip its roster in the offseason; Texas State under first-year coach G.J. Kinne added more than 50 new players. TSU finished 7-5 this season, the second time in its 12-year history in FBS the Bobcats finished with a winning record.

The Sun Belt, however, is not the Pac 12.

Colorado was coming off six straight losing seasons, and were a combined 5-19 in '21 and '22. Deion had to do something.

From a record standpoint, Colorado football under Deion looked the same as it did under previous coaches Karl Dorrell, Mike MacIntyre, Jon Embree or Dan Hawkins. The Buffaloes finished 4-8 this season.

After starting the season 3-0, the Buffaloes were exposed and regressed as the season progressed. The defense finished as one of the worst in the nation, and the offensive line was bad.

Deion's tenure in Boulder may ultimately be a success, but this method of improving a roster via such a dramatic use of the portal ultimately translated into more of the same for Colorado.

Even in our nomadic sports landscape, there is still something to be said to developing players. One of the unintended consequences to the portal is the transfer player arrives on campus knowing he is a mercenary, thus his commitment and "buy in" may be minimal.

The transfer with one year of eligibility remaining is vulnerable to "checking out" early.

It's hard to develop a team comprised of kids who are half-in, if that.

This works both ways, with coaches who are empowered to give up on the kid knowing they can basically run them off with zero consequence.

Early signing day for college football teams is Dec. 20; because of the portal, the rankings that come with these celebrated announcements mean less and less.

The portal is so full of kids who are looking for a better, or different, opportunity that the "No. 1 ranked recruiting class in 2023" may be half gone by 2024.

Players are putting their name in the transfer portal just to see what is available, in terms of moving to a better place, or cash. Or, worse, they are promised by a scummy agent who tells the kid he has an NIL deal lined up, as well as a guaranteed roster spot elsewhere, only to learn the hard way neither is true.

A handful of moderately-ranked recruits have in recent days decommitted from Colorado, which in the past would be cause for concern. These days, the "worry level" is more of a "meh."

The notion that Deion was going to upend college football by doing things differently turned out to be a SPAM-worthy email. A 4-8 record means all of those receipts he kept should be trashed.

Deion may turn Colorado into a successful program, but he found out that even in our portal planet there is still no short cut to winning.

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