From the carpet in the head coach’s office to the menu in the cafeteria, a lot has changed within the walls of the Champions Center since Colorado athletic director Rick George hired Deion Sanders on Dec. 3.
The primary change, however, is one that can be felt, but not seen.
“Our attitudes,” Sanders said of the biggest change he’s seen since coming to Boulder after three seasons as the head coach at Jackson State. “Everyone in this building has a commitment to excellence. Everyone in this building is on 10. Everyone has a different pep in the step about them.
“Everyone, they see it. They see that it can really happen. Hope has been established, I truly believe. I think it’s been there, but sometimes you just need to light that switch of hope. And hope is in the house. Hope is in the air. Hope is in the city. Hope is in the community.”
George initially didn’t fully comprehend the immediate impact Sanders could have on the program and the fan base, but he knew the hire would flip that switch of hope.
“I certainly knew that he was going to be a transformational hire, no question about it,” George told BuffZone. “Just what he brings in this element of celebrity, great coach, awesome guy – all those things combined, I knew it would be transformational. Plus, he understands the landscape of college athletics and college football.”
In addition to believing Sanders was a great coach who could hire a great staff, George was confident Sanders could recruit, because he made a big splash in that regard during his short time at Jackson State.
George got a first-hand look at Sanders’ charisma as a recruiter during a recent event at CU in which some of the nation’s best class of 2024 players were on campus.
“He can really engage with young people and their parents,” George said. “I got to sit in on his junior day and sit in on a couple of one-on-one visits with family and he’s gonna be really good recruiter.
“He can relate really well with young people and it’s evident in his recruiting and just his relationships that he had when he was coaching young kids years ago.”
Since Sanders was hired, interest in season tickets and merchandise has been record-breaking for CU and the program has received unprecedented national attention because of Sanders’ celebrity status and appeal. A Pro Football Hall of Famer, Sanders has made numerous appearances – in CU gear – on national TV since being hired.
“(The immediate impact) certainly exceeded my expectations, but I’m not surprised by it,” George said. “It’s been great for not only our football program and our athletic department, but I think for the university and the community and the state.”
Within the Champions Center, there has been a physical makeover.
Previous head coaches Mike MacIntyre, Mel Tucker and Karl Dorrell occupied the same office as Sanders. The furniture and décor changed with each coach, but the room was essentially the same. None of them would recognize it today, though.
There is new black and white carpet, fresh paint and Sanders’ favorite phrases on the wall, plus a different vibe of furniture. A room adjacent to the office that used to be a conference room is now a lounge and dressing room for Sanders.
“His office is certainly different (from the past), but that’s his style and that’s how he likes to do things,” George said. “He’s got to be comfortable in his environment and if that makes him comfortable, and his staff and recruits and all that, you’ve got to support those things.”
The recruiting lounge has also been given a fresh makeover, where it feels more like a hangout spot than a conference room.
“I sat in the recruiting lounge with him with a couple of recruits and their parents and that atmosphere is what young people today are engaged with,” George said. “And, his presence on social media, young people are really engaged in that and so I’m all for it.”
In YouTube videos from Sanders’ team, there have been hints of new uniform combinations on the way. Asked if fans will see those soon, George just smiled and said, “You may. I’m excited about the direction that we’re going with our apparel. I think there’s really some positive things coming.”
George also said CU has “been in discussions with a number of different companies” about naming rights for Folsom Field, but added there is no timetable on getting that done.
It’s all added up to CU having a remarkable two months that has almost made people forget that the Buffs are coming off a miserable 1-11 season.
“It’s great to be talked about in a positive way,” George said. “We certainly had a lot of talk in a negative way (in the past).
“I think everybody needs to look forward, not backwards. Last year was incredibly difficult on a lot of people and I get it. But all of that is in the past. I don’t even focus on that. I’m really focused on what’s ahead. … (During the season), we kept our focus on what do we need to do to make this program prominent in the way it should be? And I think we accomplished that.”
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