During the Buffs’ 12 years in the Pac-12, the team never really built any substantial rivalries on the gridiron. The conference tried pretty hard to push a Colorado vs. Utah “Rumble in the Rockies” rivalry game, as both schools were admitted into the Pac at the same time and are very close geographically. However, Utah’s success and Colorado’s sustained failure in football led to no such rivalry materializing. It looked as though the Buffs would leave the Pac-12 without ruffling the feathers of any of their conference mates, but Deion Sanders proved to be some sort of catalyst.
When Coach Prime came to Boulder to coach the Buffaloes, something changed. A coach in the Pac-12 REALLY didn't like Deion and just couldn’t help running their mouth all season long, but refused to put their name behind their shit-talk. This led to what would be come Colorado’s biggest conference rivalry during the Pac-12 era: Coach Prime versus the anonymous Pac-12 coach.
The Pac-12 coach didn’t even wait a month before talking trash on the Buffaloes, as he put the Deion hire on blast pretty much immediately. The coach called the hire of Coach Prime a “lose-lose” situation for both Deion and the Colorado football program.
“Either he’s gonna be really good really fast and leave for another gig, which, looking at that roster doesn’t seem possible. … The alternative is that they’re gonna be bad, and they’ll end up firing him in a big circus,” said the coach in an Athlon season preview magazine.
Welp, that coach’s prediction proved itself to be wrong (woah, big shocker). Deion immediately made the Buffs a better team, helping the formerly 1-11 team to win their first three games. Colorado’s record ended up being only 4-8, but the season was far from being a big circus. Deion is sticking around in 2024 too, so this prediction didn’t aged well.
After week 5, the anonymous Pac-12 coach struck again. The coach accused Colorado quarterback Shedeur Sanders of taking excessive sacks to pad his stats.
“I think they want to rack up some stats for Shedeur. He really holds on to the ball a long time. I think he takes sacks because he doesn’t want to affect his completion percentage. He’s playing a little different than he did earlier in the season. Before he showed that he was willing to step up and escape through the B-gaps. Now, he’s retreating more,” said the anonymous Pac-12 coach.
If you watched the Buffs in 2023, it’s pretty evident that Shedeur wasn’t intentionally taking sacks. Colorado’s offensive line was atrocious last season and Shedeur was basically having to fight for his life every single play, especially later into the season. Shedeur got sacked a whopping 52 times in 2023. Getting sacked at that magnitude is no fluke, nor is it intensional. Plus, Shedeur was very evidently fighting through injuries after the UCLA game in week 9. To put it simply, the coach is taking cheap shots at Shedeur just for the sake of being a hater.
Just last week, the anonymous coach got one final shot in before the mass exodus of the conference. The coach said that Deion would be unable to rebuild their entire offensive line through the transfer portal.
“There’s no way in hell you’re gonna get a whole new line for Shedeur,” the coach told the Athletic recently.
If “no way in hell” means completely replacing your entire line with some of the highest end talent available in the country, then he sure hit the nail right on the head. Deion proved the shit-talker extraordinaire wrong one last time before heading to the Big XII with the additions of 5 star recruit Jordan Seaton, All-Big XII member Tyler Johnson and Indiana starting tackle Khalil Benson.
It’s pretty safe to say the Coach Prime is 3-0 in the battle with said anonymous coach this season. Deion handled the situation with poise all three times, as he never even really acknowledged the trash talk and praised every coach he played against. This begs the question though: who was the anonymous coach who had the gall to talk this much trash? Well, I have a couple theories.
The far and away frontrunner would be Oregon’s Dan Lanning. Lanning pretty much immediately started the season by speaking ill about the Buffs, saying that Colorado didn’t contribute anything to the Pac-12 during their 12 year stint in the conference. Lanning also said this in the very public environment of a press junket and you have to REALLY not like a team to say something like that so publicly.
Lanning also continued his shots at Deion before Colorado’s game against the Oregon in Eugene. Pregame, Lanning told his team that the Buffs were fighting for clicks, but the Ducks were fighting for wins. He also said that his team is “rooted in substance”.
Those are especially rich words coming from the coach of a team that’s essentially propped up by Nike and has built their entire brand on being the flashiest possible. These Lanning comments make it evident that he could be the one who’s speaking out against Prime behind closed doors, but this is still just pure speculation.
The dark-horse candidate that I’d like to propose for the anonymous Pac-12 coach is none other than Washington State’s Jake Dickert. Dickert has plenty of reason to be salty at Colorado, as they were essentially the team that caused the dominos to fall which led to the exodus of the four corner teams. Wazzu is still stuck in the Pac because no Power 5 conference would take them, so Dickert’s bad blood is understandable.
Dickert also proved that he doesn’t like Colorado on the field of play, after he ran up the score on the Buffs and refused to take his star quarterback out of the game in the fourth quarter when his team was up by around 40 points. To keep your guys in the game in a blowout of that nature, that’s essentially just pure malice.
The anonymous coach could very well be someone who we aren’t suspecting like OSU’s Jonathon Smith or ASU’s Kenny Dillingham, but there isn’t enough evidence to back up those claims. We’ll likely never know who exactly the coach was, but it led to a really fun and silly narrative throughout 2023. Hopefully in the Big XII, another anonymous coach will have the balls to talk trash about Deion. A Deion Sanders vs. Mike Gundy or Matt Campbell beef sounds objectively hilarious, so here to hoping that something of that sort happens.