Colorado and the Portal

Interesting what is happening in Colorado. They had 83 players on scholarship and now have 20. What I have read is it is all Deion doing this. He is effectively purging his roster. First of I know they went 1-11 last year but it is still hard to believe he had to send 63 players packing. I wouldn’t think it would be possible to replace 63 players. The other thing is I would have thought the players would have some protection in this. I didn’t think in college sports coaches could just cut players because they wanted better players. I know they can cut players if rules or the law is broken but not because they want better players. Either I am wrong or there is more to the story. Maybe the portal has changed all that.

Anyone that doesn’t have a subscription to The Athletic probably can’t view this article at least not in its entirety.

Here’s what ESPN has to say about Colorado transfers:

I don’t know what the Pac-12’s rules are about scholarships, players may have been told they no longer have a guaranteed football scholarship (ie, are on the player roster) but the school will continue an academic scholarship, I think that’s how the Big Ten handles it.

The Huskers play their 2nd game of the season in Boulder, prepping for it could be challenging. CU opens their season against TCU, which should be a strong team again in 2023.

Mike Nolan


The NCAA has allowed colleges to provide multiyear scholarships since 2012. Additionally, in 2015, NCAA D1 colleges from the Power Five conferences (colleges in the Football Bowl Subdivision, plus Notre Dame) agreed to implement a rule that prevented multi-year D1 scholarships from being canceled or not renewed for any athletic reason.

Allow isn’t the same thing as require. Colorado has had trouble in the past offering a coach a multi-year contract because that’s apparently not allowed under state law. Might be similar issues with athletes.

In any event, it sounds like Sanders is actively encouraging players to jump into the portal. But if some of them are forced out, lawsuits could follow.

Mike Nolan

According to Colorado State law, all state agencies (including the athletic
department) are limited to 6 multiyear contracts at a time. This means the
University cannot offer extended contracts to potential state employees.
This means football coaches, baseball coaches, basketball coaches, and on
down the list. This began I believe back in 2006 when the powers in the
State House were concerned the money the University was spending on trivial
things, like professor’s salaries, coaches salaries, etc. That law was
modified slightly to allow a few more multi-year contracts, but its still
very limited. The current legislature is considering dropping those
restrictions on certain positions. But its a particularly difficult
situation to hire staff at CU and CSU and hope to retain them.

An article in the Denver Post today says 31 CU players have entered the portal in April. According to at least some of them, they were definitely pushed.

At Nebraska, Alante Brown, Richard Torres and Victor Jones have announced they will enter the portal, and Logan Smothers reportedly will, as well.

Dick Karre

The limits Mike and Nick discussed on multi-year contracts for coaches (or the services of any other individual) has been an issue for Colorado state schools, but that limitation doesn’t apply to athletic (or academic) scholarships.

The rule Mike mentioned about converting athletic scholarships to academic scholarships is an NCAA-level rule that says those converted scholarships no longer count against the limit if the school has changed head coaches that season.

“NCAA Division I Bylaw Aid After Departure of Head Coach. A student-athlete who receives athletically related institutional financial aid in subsequent academic years after the departure of a head coach from the institution is not a counter in a year in which he or she does not participate in intercollegiate athletics, provided:

(a) The student-athlete participated in the applicable sport and received athletically related institutional financial aid during the coach’s tenure at the institution; and

(b) The student-athlete does not participate in the applicable sport beyond the next regular academic year (including completion of the championship season in spring sports) after the departure of the head coach.

DIvision I Bylaw Subsequent Participation. If the student-athlete subsequently participates in the applicable sport at the institution, the student-athlete shall become a counter for all years during which athletically related institutional aid was received.”

Finally, a slight clarification from John’s original post: only 20 players currently remain on Colorado’s roster from the 83 players that were on scholarship going into the start of last season. The bulk of those players have left through the portal, but some of them just reached the end of their eligibility. Also, like Nebraska, Colorado was actually above the scholarship limit during spring practice because of the number of athletes they have brought in. Sanders brought in seven players from Jackson State alone. Both schools need to get back down to the limit by fall camp, either through the portal or by converting to academic scholarships.

I should add that if everyone who has already entered the portal leaves Colorado, it looks like CU will actually have room to bring in up to 20 more players, so it is unlikely that scholarship conversions will have to be used to bring down the count.

In a followup discussion, The Athletic writers said that the final number of players to be replaced may “end up being closer to 70 than 60 at this point.” They’ve brought in 28 transfers so far and have 19 high school and junior college signees (a smaller class than I thought).

It is going to be challenging enough for Matt Rhule to get the Huskers’ new staff and roster ready for the opener at Minnesota, but Colorado has set the difficulty level to 10 for them to get ready for opening against TCU on the road, followed by Nebraska in Week 2.

Colorado will have a lot more talent on the roster than they had on their 1-11 team last year, but playing cohesively will be an issue. One thing that they have going for them is that the position group with the most holdovers is the offensive line, though I don’t know how many of the six returnees (versus eight departures) have significant starting experience. All 10 WRs have left. All but one of the nine defensive linemen are gone. All but two of the 15 defensive backs are gone. There is some significant four-star and five-star talent arriving, but not enough to fill all of the holes and not a whole lot of time to pull them together into working units. I suspect much of the offense early on will be Shedeur Sanders throwing to his fellow Jackson State star, Travis Hunter.

Thanks for the update, Steve.

Not sure I agree that Colorado will necessarily have more talent on its roster in 2023 than in 2022, even with the talent that Sanders is able to attract. And with all respects to Jackson State, they aren’t a power 5 school and even though Sanders recruited well there, it will be interesting to see how the Jackson State transfers fare in the Pac-12, especially without an experienced cohesive line in front Sanders and Hunter.

Colorado has been a thorn in Nebraska’s side for a while, that game in September will be an interesting one. Both teams will be looking at that as a statement game. (In retrospect, we should probably have paid more attention to the Colorado games when Frost was coaching, I think they told a story nobody wanted to hear.)

I was in Denver today wearing a Husker hat. A man approached me gleefully telling me he was at the last Husker/Buffs game and he loves Husker fans. I bit my tongue from asking how many Nebraska fans dumped urine on him, or cursed at him.

He told me that Sanders was unifying the buffs. Again I bit my tongue from asking if unify was another name for portal.

New coaches often trim the roster of players they don’t think will fit in, physically, positionally or socially/culturally. That’s one of the reasons why the NCAA has that rule regarding counters after a coaching change.

Rhule’s roster in August will look a whole lot different than the one from a year ago, too. A lot of players have to go and a few more transfers might be added, too.

It will be interesting to see how the ‘experts’ think the teams stack up in August and what they see as the potential for both teams. Which team will have the higher initial projected ceiling?

Colorado plays USC but not UCLA this year, and we don’t know yet whether Nebraska will see either or both of those schools in 2024. (I’m guessing they’ll split them up so that no current Big Ten team has to play both of them every year, but the Big Ten is keeping that discussion under wraps, a good subject for another thread.)

With all the usual caveats about recruiting rankings, according to 247 Sports, CU’s signees included a five-star CB – Nebraska’s last five-star recruit was Marlon Lucky according to The Athletic – and three four-star recruits (two WRs and a RB).

Among the JSU transferees, Shadeur Sanders was a four-star out of high school and Travis Hunter (CB and WR) was a five-star who made national news when he decommitted from FSU in favor of JSU and still projects as a first-rounder in the NFL. Four other incoming transferees were four-stars.

Of the outgoing transferees, only Lemonious-Craig (WR) was four stars.

I believe 247 Sports weights their recruiting class rankings more by total stars rather than average stars, so sheer volume can inflate the ranking, but they had the incoming CU class ranked at #30 and the transfers as the #1 class. (They had Nebraska at 24 and 26 respectively, which was in the neighborhood of Frost’s classes.) The highest ranking for CU in the previous five years was the two Mel Tucker classes at #48 and #36 (he jumped to Michigan State one week after signing day in 2020 after just one year at CU). The most recent CU classes were among the very lowest in the Power 5.

It remains to be seen when and if this talent transfusion translates to wins on the field. I suspect that the rematch in Lincoln in Week 2 of 2024 will look a lot different on both sides of the ball than the game in Boulder in Week 2 of this year.

A handful of 4 or 5 star players can skew the ratings, the real question is how many 2 or 3 star players each team will have, and will that offset the talent at the high end?

And recruiting ratings don’t translate directly into wins, just ask Texas or Notre Dame about that.

I’ve long been of the opinion that certain schools don’t get the respect they deserve for the players they recruit, because they don’t fit into the assumed profile of a top-caliber player. Nebraska’s QBs were often downgraded because they were option QBs. The fullback is a position many teams no longer include (including Nebraska under Frost), so fullback recruits aren’t prized.

The spring transfer portal window closes on Sunday, I wonder if Nebraska will even release a depth chart before then?

More on Colorado, transfers will have access to game and practice video from 2022 and before.

Mike Nolan

At last count, CU had sent 36 players to the portal. To my mind, the question with Sanders is whether he can avoid making it all about himself. The hoopla surrounding him reminds me of Frost’s arrival in Lincoln.

Dick Karre

Frost and Sanders might be polar opposites on a Meyers-Briggs scale.

Frost seemed to hate the limelight and Sanders relishes it.

Sanders might succeed spectacularly at Colorado, or he might fail spectacularly at Colorado, but whatever it is, it will be spectacular.

CU’s AD backs his coach.

Mike Nolan

I don’t see any middle of the road here. If this works Deion will be a hero. If not he will get run out of Boulder.

But you can probably say that over half of all football coaches, including 3 of the last 5 at Nebraska The sad fact is that more coaches get fired than become local heroes.

Pick a school, nearly any school, and they’ve probably fired at least one coach in the last 30 year for not winning enough games. Ohio State, Michigan, FSU, Oklahoma, USC, UCLA, even Alabama. Notre Dame, multiple times. Texas, multiple times.

There are a few exceptions. Iowa, Northwestern (though they went through a ton of coaches in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.)

Are his odds of succeeding better than most? I suspect so; he’s got some cache and has certainly brought in talent that wouldn’t be at Colorado if not for him. Don’t know much about his coaching staff, though. Frost’s coaching crew never impressed me, I have to say that Rhule’s staff seems to be an upgrade.

The thing about the Deion thing is I don’t ever recall a coach coming in and pretty much purging his roster. That seemed a little extreme to me. I can’t see that Deion knows that much more how to build a roster than the guy before him.

And, what about the players he cut? What happens to them? Sure, they can enter the portal but that might be a dead end for some of them. I am a little surprised we haven’t heard anything about parents of the cut players rising up. This totally changes the lives of those kids.

John Papenhagen