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I remember the play. It was Game 3 of the 1992 World Series: the Atlanta Braves versus the Toronto Blue Jays. David Justice was at the plate, Terry Pendleton was on first, and Deion Sanders was at second. As a 13-year-old in Atlanta, I’d become a fan during the Braves’ stunning worst-to-first 1991 campaign, so I screamed when Justice roasted a ball to center. It looked uncatchable. That is, until the center fielder gloved it, surprising Pendleton, who was called out for overtaking Sanders on the base path, and Sanders, who got caught in a pickle. Sanders made it back to second and was called safe, avoiding what would have been only the second triple play in World Series history. Except he should have been out: Replays showed the third baseman had tagged Sanders’ heel, and the umpire later admitted he blew the call.
The Jays won anyway, but roughly 31 years later, I have to laugh when I think about Sanders getting away with what could’ve been a history-making blunder. Why? Because I wonder if Neon Deion—as he was called in the days when he played for the Braves and the Atlanta Falcons—can similarly sidestep going down in the annals of Division I college football as just the latest in a long line of coaching casualties in Boulder. Sanders can indeed light up a locker room, a YouTube channel, a Twitter feed, a GQ fashion spread, and a ticket office, but coaches with far more experience—and far less controversial backgrounds—have arrived at Folsom Field only to pack their (Louis Vuitton?) bags a few short years later.
In this issue’s story, “The Deion Sanders Era at CU Boulder Starts Now”, senior staff writer Robert Sanchez takes a hard look at the man University of Colorado Boulder administrators have tapped to resurrect their once-proud program, potentially at the expense of their conscience and budget. “Sanders has exploited the transfer portal to fully remake the Buffs overnight,” Sanchez says, “and he’s done so by eighty-sixing current scholarship players with abandon, with the full support of the university.”
CU’s Sanders experiment kicks off soon. On September 2, the Buffs head to Fort Worth to battle Texas Christian University, which played in (but lost) the College Football Playoff National Championship last season. As a college football fanatic, I’m intrigued by the possibility of a return to gridiron glory for CU, but I can’t help but think that someday, in the not-too-distant future, university officials ultimately may have to concede that they, too, blew the call.