Appearing on Barstool last night, Deion Sanders promised something that might change everything during today's National Signing Day. And he wasn't kidding. Spidey-Senses everywhere were validated when Travis Hunter, widely recognized as the nation's top recruit, changed his mind from Florida State to Jackson State. Here's his shocking announcement, which he absolutely nailed.
That's right. Someone who could have played anywhere chose to play off the beaten path with Deion Sanders, who piloted the Tigers to an 11-1 record in his second year at the helm. He took the job over persistent rumors about Florida State or other bluebloods and there were a long line of doubters — myself among them, having not yet anticipated the future. NIL and the accelerant of a pandemic on how fast things change, plus the explosion of college football coaching salaries, is creating an entirely new ecosystem. That process will take time and, for now, the traditional powers will retain and rely on the elite players.
This is just one recruit and it should be contextualized as the extreme rarity, even if it's bound to become more routine. And it's not like Hunter's pump-fake came out of nowhere. College athletics have always been driven by the highest bidder. Having said that, more feels possible for the future at a quickened pace. Celebrity is tied to earning power and Hunter wisely understands how Sanders has maximized his. Deion Sanders could be a trailblazer in that department as coaching becomes the most financially lucrative post-playing careers for former NFL superstars. More opportunity may be available at the lower levels with thought the playing field will eventually level out.
Perhaps, and here's where the real money comes into the equation, to the point of dull uniformity. It is possible for me to imagine Michigan Presented by Amazon vs. Apple's The Ohio State in November. It is possible for me for Barstool to be effectively running an entire athletic arm somewhere down the line. Pie-in-the-sky stuff as it may be, it seems closer than a few hours ago.
Some of the possibilities seem great. Others are a bit scary. Here's what I'd say to those who feel some apprehension about the chaos if it comes in full: when a large group of people hurtle into something with great force and with no blueprint, there are going to be some errors. Programs and sponsors are going to wildly misestimate relative value in all directions. Some will wish they'd been careful while wishing. And that's going to be entertaining as hell.
Odds are the sun will rise in the East tomorrow as though college football was business as usual the day before. The horizon just be a bit more open.