LAS VEGAS — The hiring of Deion Sanders as Colorado’s head coach already was the talk of college football, but the commissioner of Colorado’s conference ratcheted up the hype even more Wednesday when he implied that Sanders coming to Colorado should make the Pac-12’s media rights more valuable.
The Pac-12 as been negotiating a new media rights deal for months. One major holdup has been the board of regents of the University of California system debating whether it will allow UCLA to leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten. But Kliavkoff said Wednesday that wasn’t the only factor delaying the deal. He also wanted to wait until Sanders officially entered the league. Sanders, who led Jackson State to a second consecutive SWAC title this season, officially accepted the Colorado job Saturday.
“We knew some other information was coming, including the announcement of Coach Prime,” Kliavkoff said Wednesday after an on-stage interview at the Sports Business Journal Intercollegiate Athletics Forum. “And why would we do a media deal before that?”
Asked if the identity of one coach could move the needle that much, Kliavkoff didn’t hesitate. “He absolutely adds value,” Kliavkoff said.
During his on-stage interview, Kliavkoff couldn’t hide his excitement for the possibility of Sanders bringing new viewers for his league. Colorado is coming off of a 1-11 season, and Sanders’ hire has brought more attention to that program in a week than it had gotten the previous five years. “For me, it’s another example of our school making an investment on football and getting an immediate return on that investment,” Kliavkoff said. “Season ticket sales, sponsorships, donors, collective, everything is stepping up to support Deion Sanders.”
Kliavkoff was asked about Sanders’ first meeting with Colorado players, which was filmed by Sanders’ son and published on YouTube. In the meeting, Sanders told players to enter the transfer portal if they didn’t want to work hard. He also mentioned bringing “luggage,” a reference to transfer players who may come to Colorado to join him.
“And it’s Louis,” Sanders said. (As in Vuitton.)
Kliavkoff said he loved the video because it communicates to a younger generation in a method that generation appreciates.
While the media rights deal the Pac-12 is negotiating won’t begin until the 2024 season, Kliavkoff can’t wait to see the viewership numbers for Sanders’ debut road and home games. The Buffaloes open at TCU, which is facing Michigan in a College Football Playoff semifinal in the Fiesta Bowl. Last year’s meeting in Boulder drew 1.25 million viewers on ESPN in a game that kicked off at 10:40 p.m. ET on a Friday. What will next year’s game draw?
“I can’t imagine what the ratings are going to be for that game,” Kliavkoff said.
Colorado’s home opener is against former Big 8 rival Nebraska. The Cornhuskers now play in the Big Ten, the league that is in the process of taking UCLA and USC from the Pac-12. “The fact that it’s a Big Ten/Pac-12 game? Even better,” Kliavkoff said. “I can’t wait for that game.”
(Top photo: Ron Chenoy / USA Today)