Friedlander: Hiring Deion Sanders would make Georgia Tech a 'Prime Time' player
Todd Stanbury had the right idea when he hired Geoff Collins as Georgia Tech’s football coach 4 years ago.
The Yellow Jackets were in desperate need of a rebranding after 11 seasons under former coach Paul Johnson and his antiquated triple-option offense. In Collins, Stansbury saw the kind of young, energetic salesman the program needed to finally bring it into the 21st Century.
Collins did succeed in one respect. His ability as a salesman and the change to a more up-to-date offensive philosophy did help attract a higher caliber of recruits to The Flats.
He just wasn’t able to convince enough of them to actually play for him. Or win enough games to be able to keep trying.
So Monday, after only 10 wins in 3 1/2 seasons and weeks of speculation, Tech didn’t just put Collins out of his misery. The school’s administration also sent Stansbury, the athletic director who hired him, out the door as well.
The house cleaning sets the stage for yet another reboot to the football program. A search firm has already been hired to expedite the process. This time, whoever ends up doing the hiring will need to find a salesman capable of delivering an actual product, not just a bill of goods.
Someone with the ability of transforming the Yellow Jackets into a prime-time player in college football.
Did somebody say Prime Time?
If Tech is truly serious about having a football program that can compete with the top teams in the ACC, let alone neighboring rival Georgia and nationally, the first and only call it should make in its coaching search is to Deion Sanders.
The man known as Prime Time would certainly create the kind of buzz – pun intended – that has long been missing from the Yellow Jackets.
He’s not just an Atlanta legend who introduced the Tomahawk Chop and chant to the city’s fan base while starring as a player for both the Falcons and Braves. He’s a national brand who appears in television commercials with the likes of Nick Saban.
But Sanders’ hiring would be about more than just winning the press conference. His resume as a coach, though short, already has plenty of sting.
He has compiled a 19-5 record in his 2-plus seasons at Jackson State, including a 9-2 record and Celebration Bowl win that earned him the Eddie Robinson Award as the nation’s top FCS coach. His current team is off to a 4-0 start while outscoring its opponents by a 190-37 margin.
Beyond the wins, he’s earned acclaim as a recruiter for attracting a number of highly-rated players to an HBCU school.
It’s a list that includes his son Shadeur, a 4-star quarterback completing 74% of his passes this season, and 5-star defensive back Travis Hunter, the No. 1 overall prospect in the 2022 class and a metro Atlanta native.
Recruiting to Georgia Tech is significantly different from recruiting to Jackson State or most other Division I schools, of course.
There are stringent entrance requirements that, while eased somewhat in recent years, continue to make it difficult for some players to simply be admitted. And the academic standards aren’t any easier for those who can get in.
It’s an obstacle that could dissuade Sanders from considering an offer from Tech, regardless of how lucrative it might be – especially with the prospect of other high-profile jobs already available or expecting to be open.
Including at least one, potentially, in the SEC.
But if there’s anyone who can work around the system and attract the kind of talent necessary to compete at the highest level, provided he’s given the necessary financial backing to do so, it’s Coach Prime.
Besides, there’s one thing the ATL can provide Sanders that places such as Lincoln, Nebraska or Auburn, Alabama, can’t. It’s attention and celebrity that come with being a name brand personality in a major metro area.
For as many boxes as Sanders checks, hiring him would still be something of a gamble for Tech.
He has, after all, only been coaching for a short time and not at a level that would force him to recruit and game plan against the Clemsons, Florida States and Georgias of the college football world.
Now is not the time to play it safe, though.
With the dismissals of Collins and Stansbury, the Yellow Jackets have given themselves a chance to breathe some badly needed life into their stagnant program at a time in which success on the field and brand recognition off it are more important than ever.
They’ve already struck out once in an attempt to accomplish that goal. Regardless of who is hired, there’s always a chance that it might happen again.
But as an old baseball player like Sanders will attest, if you’re going to strike out, you might as well do it while swinging for the fence.