SI faces push back for naming Deion Sanders ‘Sportsperson of the Year’ after 4-8 season

Sports Illustrated received some more flak on Thursday as it revealed its 2023 Sportsperson of the Year to be Colorado Buffaloes’ first-year head coach Deion Sanders.

Sanders took the Colorado job after his time with Jackson State was over. The move brought national attention to a fledgling Pac-12 program that won only one game in 2022 and was years removed from its national championship run in the 1990s.

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Deion Sanders walks the sidelines

Deion Sanders walks the sidelines as Colorado plays Arizona State at Mountain America Stadium. (Joe Rondone/USA Today Network)

“Coach Prime” immediately brought hype and attention when he used the transfer portal to bolster his roster. Then, the national spotlight shined on Boulder as the team upset TCU in the first game of the season and started 2023 with three straight wins.

However, the bright lights appeared to get too bright for Colorado as it went 1-8 after starting the season undefeated.

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ion Sanders looks on before a game

Head coach Deion Sanders of the Colorado Buffaloes before the UCLA Bruins game at Rose Bowl Stadium on Oct. 28, 2023, in Pasadena, California. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

College football fans and sports pundits alike pointed to the dismal finish to Colorado’s season as to why Sanders was named Sportsperson of the Year. A lot of fans who chimed in all had the same artificial intelligence joke, referencing allegations earlier in the week the outlet’s parent company used AI writers to publish stories on the website. The Arena Group denied the accusations.

“The vote must have taken place in September,” college football analyst Danny Kanell wrote on X.

“Voting must have taken place on Sept. 16,” business reporter Darren Rovell wrote.

“Imagine the love this program will next season if they win two conference games!” former NFL lineman Geoff Schwartz added.

Regardless, Sports Illustrated backed up its decision.

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Deion Sanders talks to Shedeur

Colorado Buffaloes head coach Deion Sanders talks with his son QB Shedeur Sanders before the game against the Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium, Sept. 23, 2023. (Andy Cross/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

“Deion Sanders dominated the sports conversation in 2023 as a transformative figure not just in Colorado, but for the entire realm of college sports,” SI editor-in-chief Stephen Cannella said in a statement. “On and off the field, he represents a new model for the modern college coach.”

Former NBA coach George Karl and FOX Sports host Emmanuel Acho also supported the decision on X.

“I’ve never seen anything in sports quite like what Coach Prime did for the recognition of the program. The amount of hope he brought to Colorado is astounding. Well deserved,” Acho wrote.

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“Seems relevant to me – to all the haters out there,” Karl wrote. “Keep climbing @DeionSanders.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.