Reports: Super Bowl Champ Deion Sanders Considering UC Bearcats Head Football Coach Job

Luke Fickell's old job is open, but it's not the only one Sanders is looking at.

Dec 1, 2022 at 2:03 pm
click to enlarge Former NFL and MLB star Deion Sanders leads analysis on a sports broadcast in 2008. - Photo: Michael De Jesus, Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Michael De Jesus, Wikimedia Commons
Former NFL and MLB star Deion Sanders leads analysis on a sports broadcast in 2008.

Could the University of Cincinnati have a two-time Super Bowl champion as part of its football program's future?

Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders reportedly is in the running to become head coach for the UC Bearcats. Luke Fickell, Cincinnati's former coach, announced Nov. 27 that he was heading to the University of Wisconsin for the same position.

Sanders – also known as "Prime Time" – currently is the head coach at Jackson State University, a historically Black university in Mississippi. According to Kevin O'Donnell, a sports reporter for WTVT-TV in Tampa Bay, Sanders is talking with multiple schools about a new position, including Cincinnati, University of South Florida and University of Colorado Boulder. Sanders reportedly "will be at a school on Sunday," O'Donnell said.

But Carl Reed, a reporter with 247 Sports, threw water on that. "I just got off the phone with @DeionSanders. He said 'This is not true,'" Reed tweeted.

Sanders has been evasive with reporters, saying that he wanted to avoid distractions as Jackson State prepares to battle Southern University for the SWAC championship. He did, however, confirm that Colorado has offered him the head coach job, ESPN reported.

"Yeah, definitely the report is true," Sanders told reporters on Nov. 28. "They’re not the only ones. The report is true. I’m not going to sit in here and tell all my business, but they’re not the only ones. And I would be a liar if I told you they didn’t. You know they did. I know they did. Everybody there know they did. So it is what it is."

To make matters even more intriguing, PFF – a repository and supplier of player and game data –said Sanders' recent Instagram story featured a photo of a fan at a UC basketball game wearing a long-sleeved shirt with "A lot of zeroes in that contract" over Sanders' image. In the picture, "Cincinnati" is written in large letters on Sanders' shirt.

Sanders' Cincinnati connection

In the NFL, Sanders primarily was a cornerback and punt returner. In 1994, he was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year and helped the San Francisco 49ers win the Super Bowl. The following year he again won the championship, this time with the Dallas Cowboys.

In 1994, Sanders had two interceptions returned for at least 90 yards, becoming the first NFL player to do so twice in a season. According to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, which enshrined Sanders with the class of 2011, "Prime Time" was second all-time in interception return yardage and tied for second in most interceptions returned for a touchdown in a career and a season when he retired in 2006. 
But sports fans will remember that Sanders not only was a notable NFL player, but also an MLB player, including in Cincinnati. He spent nine seasons playing professional baseball, overlapping with his 14 seasons in football. Sanders compiled a .263 average, 39 homers, 168 RBI, 186 stolen bases over 641 total games.

Sanders joined the Cincinnati Reds in 1994, batting .277 and stealing 19 bases over 46 games. He stole another 16 bases in 1995 before being traded to the San Francisco Giants. Sanders returned to Cincinnati in 1997, hitting .273 with 56 stolen bases before taking a hiatus from the game. In 2001, he hit just .173 over 32 games before being released and concentrating only on the NFL. "Football is my wife and baseball is my mistress," Sanders famously said.

Sanders is the only player ever to play in both the Super Bowl and the World Series, and he's the only player to hit the field in both sports on the same day.

Cincinnati's situation

"We're going to need somebody that can recruit at a really high level. We're going to need somebody that understands the NIL (name, image and likeness) space and fully grasps that. That's going to be really, really important," John Cunningham, UC's athletic director, said on Nov. 27. "We're going to need somebody that can build a tremendous staff and somebody that understands the level of play and the dynamic offenses and defenses that you're going to see in the Big 12."

Newly departed head coach Luke Fickell joined Cincinnati after the season's end in 2016, compiling a 57-18 record over six years. The Bearcats just completed the 2022 regular season with a 9-3 record, good for third in the American Athletic Conference. The team ended the prior season with an undefeated regular-season record and became the first non-Power Five conference team to go to the College Football Playoffs, where they lost 27-6 to the Alabama Crimson Tide. Also in 2021, ESPN’s popular pre-game show College Gameday visited UC for the first time.

Fickell's move to Wisconsin comes as UC prepares to move from the AAC to the Big 12, a much more competitive conference. Cunningham says the team is considering both internal and external candidates to replace Fickell. Kerry Coombs, UC's cornerback and special teams coordinator, will serve as interim coach.

Sanders is wrapping his third season at Jackson State, leading the team to a 11-0 regular season this year – the school's first undefeated season. His overall record as of press time is 26-5.

As of press time, Cincinnati has not posted updates about the search for its next head coach to its athletics website. Cincinnati's next head football coach will be the 44th in school history.

Below, watch Sanders – plus other sports and pop culture celebrities – in MC Hammer's 1991 "2 Legit 2 Quit" video.

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