Colorado football head coach Deion Sanders sends another mixed message on NIL

Birmingham Stallions v Arlington Renegades
Birmingham Stallions v Arlington Renegades / Ron Jenkins/UFL/GettyImages

Colorado football head coach Deion Sanders seems to be in a constant internal struggle trying to figure out his opinion on the current state of NIL in college athletics.

In his most recent take, one he shared during an interview with BET, Sanders sounded like a man who was both a fan of players being paid for their name, image, and likeness but also someone who wanted players to realize that an NFL payday is still the ultimate goal.

“I'm happy about NIL because players who are truly making a difference, who are going to get it deserve it," Sanders prefaced before saying, "But I want them to keep in mind that they’re playing for a bigger prize and that's the NFL. So you can’t get lackadaisical that you don’t work hard because you got a ship sailing in of thousands of dollars each month that you can help family members and all that.”

So Sanders likes NIL for top players but not as a replacement for NFL money. Simple enough. But the Buffs coach also seemingly sent a stern message to NIL-focused recruits; claiming Colorado wasn't the place they should want to go to during an appearance on Front Office Sports Today.

Deion Sanders' Colorado 'isn't an ATM' comments likely lip service, says NIL agency co-founder

Sanders seems to answer the NIL question based on who is asking him. If reporters at a scrum are talking to him, he gets defensive, but if it's an media source, particularly in entertainment, he takes a softer stance on players being paid.

One particularly famous incident relating to the former scenario came ahead of the Buffs' regular season finale against Utah in November. Sanders claimed that Colorado "isn't an ATM" during a now infamous rant.

Well, about that. Postgame CEO and co-founder Bill Jula told me during a January interview that Sanders was likely giving lip service to reporters with his ATM claim.

"I wonder if that's sort of just, you know, a little bit of lip service to hide the fact that he's probably spending just like everybody else," Jula told me. "You know, or maybe it's to help sort of mitigate the fact that maybe Colorado doesn't have quite the pockets -- I would imagine they don't -- of, like, Ohio State or Texas yet. So it's maybe to try to sort of get some of those recruits into looking at other things related to the Colorado program. But with that being said, I think he's got a top-five transfer portal recruiting class right now."

Sanders has to give mixed messages on NIL. His son Shedeur is the highest valued college football player and his highest-rated recruit, Travis Hunter, is not far behind him. But when CU's shallow pockets cause him to miss out on a recruit, clapping back at recruits for taking the bag instead of the "Prime Time" spotlight in Boulder is his only way to save face.