How Will Coach Prime Fare In Year 1 at Colorado?

How Will Coach Prime Fare In Year 1 at Colorado?
Fact Checked by Michael Peters

The Colorado Buffaloes have high hopes for the future as coach Deion Sanders’ arrival has energized the fanbase and program to heights unseen in a long time. 

The school sold out its spring football game this weekend, and that excitement should transfer over to Colorado sports betting in the fall.

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Sanders is already getting paid as one of the top coaches in college football, but how quickly can he turn that energy and hope into victories? His $5.5 million salary in year one of his five-year contract puts him on the higher end of today’s coaches.

BetColorado.com — which will offer Colorado sportsbook promos throughout the college season — utilized Sports-reference.com and NBCSports.com to see how coaches with annual salaries higher than Coach Prime fared during their first season as head coach at a Power 5 school. Based on 2022 salaries, Sanders’ $5.5 million ranks 16th just behind UCLA’s Chip Kelly. 

NCAA Coaches Ranked by 2022 Salary

Coach 2022 Salary Year 1 P5 School Year 1 Record
Nick Saban$11.7M1995 Michigan State6-5-1
Kirby Smart$11.25M2016 Georgia8-5
Dabo Swinney$10.5M2009 Clemson9-5
Lincoln Riley$10M2017 Oklahoma12-2
Brian Kelly$9.5M2010 Notre Dame8-5
Mel Tucker$9.5M2019 Colorado5-7
Ryan Day$9.5M2019 Ohio State13-1
David Shaw$8.925M2011 Stanford11-2
Mario Cristobal$8.0M2018 Oregon9-4
Jimbo Fisher$7.5M2010 Florida State10-4
Lane Kiffin$7.25M2009 Tennessee7-6
Jim Harbaugh$7.05M2007 Stanford4-8
James Franklin$7.0M2011 Vanderbilt6-7
Pat Fitzgerald$5.748M2006 Northwestern4-8
Chip Kelly$5.6M2009 Oregon10-3
Deion Sanders$5.5M2023 ColoradoTBD

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Big Money Produces Big Expectations

The average finish for the 15 coaches above Sanders has been 8-4 in their first seasons, but Sanders inherits a program in dire condition compared to most of those 15 coaches.

The Buffaloes finished 1-11 in 2022, something they hadn’t done since going 1-11 in 2012 during the first season in the Pac-12. And they were 4-8 in 2021 when three-point late-season wins over Oregon State and Washington allowed coach Karl Dorrell to return for last year’s debacle.

Coming off such poor seasons and with so many changes in players and coaches, it might be best to look at how coaches fared coming into similar situations. Colorado sportsbooks are expecting the Buffs to struggle, with their season win total at FanDuel Sportsbook listed at 4.5.

When Jim Harbaugh moved from San Diego, where he had been 29-6 in three seasons, to Stanford in 2007, he took over a team that also had just gone 1-11. The Cardinal had bottomed out under coach Walt Harris after going 5-6 in his first year in 2005.

Under Harbaugh, Stanford slowly built itself back, going 4-8 in his first season and followed that up with 5-7 and 8-5 before breaking through at 12-1 with an Orange Bowl win over Virginia Tech after the 2010 season.

Of course, that led to Harbaugh’s departure for the NFL, where he led San Francisco to the Super Bowl in his second season.

Harbaugh has coached his alma mater Michigan since 2015, leading the Wolverines back to prominence with seven bowl trips, five 10-win seasons and a 74-25 record in eight years.

Coming off a College Football Playoff berth, FanDuel Sportsbook Colorado lists Michigan as the fourth best 2023 national title bet at +1000. Georgia is the favorite at +220.

When James Franklin took his first head coaching job at Vanderbilt in 2011, the Commodores were coming off back-to-back 2-10 seasons, and Robbie Caldwell was fired after coaching for one season.

Franklin had an immediate impact, leading Vanderbilt to a 6-7 season and the first of three straight bowls. The Commodores had never been to bowls in back-to-back seasons let alone three straight. That led to Franklin’s departure for Penn State, where he now makes $7 million a year and has led the Nittany Lions to a 78-36 record. 

Colorado fans will be hoping that Sanders can find similar success quickly and then, unlike Harbaugh and Franklin, he sticks around to lead the Buffaloes back to national prominence. 

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Author

Douglas Pils has been a sports journalist for 30 years in Texas, Arkansas and New York having worked for the San Antonio Express-News, the Associated Press, The Dallas Morning News and Newsday. He most recently ran the Student Media Department at Texas A&M for eight years.

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