It doesn’t happen in real life. 

When it happens in a movie, people roll their eyes.

Deus ex machina.

In Latin it means “god out of the machine”, and it refers to a trope in ancient Greek theater where a divine character would descend into the play by way of a crane and resolve impossible situations with a wave of their hand.

You’ve seen it before. Just when all hope is lost, a knight in shining armor comes riding through the smoke on his noble steed to save the townspeople. When Captain America appears alone and defeated, an entire army appears out of thin air behind him at the last possible moment.

It doesn’t happen in real life – especially not to the Colorado Buffaloes football program. But deus is Deion, the shining armor is a gold whistle, and the noble steed’s name is Ralphie. 

The Miracle at Michigan feels like a simple screen pass compared to the University of Colorado actually managing to hire Deion Sanders – yes, that Deion Sanders – to be their head football coach. On the surface it’s hard for anyone, myself included, to see why he would come here. National reaction has been mostly incredulous. Why would he go there? How could he go there? Reasonable questions.

We are the lowest of the low. Rick George went looking for stability with his previous coaching hire and he found the stability of the cellar floor. Nearly everything I saw in my nightmarish vision of the future during last September’s Minnesota game has come to pass. All the top talent transferred. The team went from bad to abysmal. Dorrell didn’t last half of the following season. Paid attendance for the home finale against Utah was the lowest of any game since 1988. 

Even worse than the on-field misery was the long-term outlook. In a rapidly shifting college football landscape, the Buffs were stuck in the mud. Chancellor DiStefano’s comments at the post-firing press conference in October were gallingly stubborn and out-of-touch. CU, it seemed, had no intention of ever again competing at the highest level in football.

So why on earth is Deion Sanders coming here?

Behind the curtain, someone is operating the machina that is air-dropping the hope of football salvation into our lives. His name is Todd Saliman. For the first time in many years, there is someone at the top who refuses to accept the same tired excuses for CU football’s failure. He understands the importance a winning football program has for the entire university, and he’s here to play ball. Longstanding obstacles like money, admissions requirements and transfer credits are crumbling under his administrative hammer. However long Coach Prime remains the star of the show, having Saliman backstage means that the program is in an incalculably better position than it was just a short time ago. The handcuffs are finally coming off, and CU is going to be serious about winning no matter the coach. Damn it feels good to type that.

Still, there are other Power-5 schools with more money and much looser academic requirements than CU’s – not to mention more talented rosters. Why us?

I look forward to hearing Coach Prime’s reasoning for why he chose the Buffs, but I suspect it may have something to do with just how desperate the situation is in Boulder. I think CU is going to give him complete control over the football program. That’s not something he’s going to find at school that’s currently experiencing success. Plus, he’ll get all the credit for any victories he has at CU, and if he can’t win here then it’s just more proof that succeeding at Colorado is impossible. 

There’s also no doubt that many of the open Power-5 jobs wanted a “safer” candidate who had already won at the FBS level. And it’s undeniable that the top schools with openings in Sanders’ native south had, uh, other concerns. With this hire, CU has hired 80% as many black head football coaches as the entire SEC. 

Ultimately, only Deion Sanders knows why he’s coming to Boulder. In a 60 Minutes interview, he said that God called him to take the job at Jackson State. I doubt he will say the same about his new gig. This is not a philanthropic mission. He is here to prove that he can win at a high level, and that he can turn any program around. Jackson State’s football program has been completely transformed in three years under Coach Prime. I’ll consider us extremely lucky if he stays in Boulder that long and has anywhere close to the same kind of impact. 

However long his tenure in Boulder lasts, we are all entitled to enjoy the hell out of it. Our beloved football program was dying before our eyes. All we dared hope for was some competent CPR, and instead we’re getting a shot of adrenaline straight to the heart. These next few years are going to be unlike anything we’ve experienced. For once, CU is going to be the main character of the universe instead of a background extra. As a wise scoreboard once said, “THINGS HAVE CHANGED”. 

Be proud. Be excited. Be insufferable. You deserve to be. We’ve been through hell, and whatever is beneath hell, for fifteen years. We’re not going back there.

In 130 years of University of Colorado football, there have been exaltations and humiliations; tragedies and scandals; championships, a Heisman, and even a Miracle. There have now also been two gifts from the football gods that are as impossible on paper as they are manifest in reality: On October 6, 1990 the Colorado Buffaloes successfully converted a fifth down, and on December 3, 2022 they hired Deion Sanders as their head coach. The first of these gifts led to a national championship. The second leads us into truly uncharted territory. 

Buckle up. The Buffs are back.