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  • Writer's pictureLucas Delgado

University of Colorado Applications Surge in the Wake of Deion Sanders’ First Season

By: Lucas Delgado

March 26, 2024

Photo Credit: David Zalubowski/AP

One of the predominant narratives throughout the past few college football seasons has been the coaching journey of Deion Sanders - who in half a decade has surged from a high school assistant to the Head Coach of a Power 5 football team at the University of Colorado. But as the storied former player prepares for his second season as the coach of the Buffaloes, it turns out that his presence in Boulder is impacting the university in a way that extends beyond the gridiron. Jennifer Ziegenfus, the assistant vice chancellor of admissions at CU-Boulder, remarked that the school saw a 20% increase in applications for the 2024 cycle, with Black and African American applicants in particular increasing by 50.5%. While Ziegenfus is hesitant to credit the surge exclusively to Sanders - citing a steady increase in applicants over the past decade - she does admit that the buzz around the football team is a contributing factor. This admissions boost is yet another indicator of what is being called The Prime Effect, the term analysts have given to explain the extensive media coverage and hype surrounding Coach Deion ‘Prime Time’ Sanders.

Before making his way to Boulder, the College and Pro Football Hall of Famer spent two seasons at Jackson State, increasing the spotlight on HBCU football and landing several top recruits - most notably his son Shedeur and five-star Travis Hunter. As Deion took the jump from the FCS-based SWAC to the Power 5’s PAC 12, he was able to convince these star players to make the jump with him, giving Colorado fans hope that a dreadful 2022 season would be a distant memory in the rear view of the Prime Era. Although the 2023 season yielded an underwhelming 4-8 record, the program improved on the previous year’s abysmal 1-11 finish. More notably, the team drew vast media attention, having 6 games in the top 50 most streamed regular season games - with 2 landing in the top 10 - and having the featured game on FOX’s Big Noon Kickoff four times and on ESPN’s College Gameday once. Now as the team moves back to the Big XII Conference, they continue to draw more attention than ever, and that has been reflected in their admissions.

Despite the seeming randomness of this instance, there is a historical precedent for this athletics-based applicant surge. The Flutie Effect - named after 1980s Boston College QB Doug Flutie - has been coined in reference to the Eagles’ unforeseen football success in the decade, which led to a significant increase in both general awareness of and applications submitted to Boston College. Research from UT-Austin marketing professor Doug Chung corroborates this idea, stating that when a mediocre team achieves newfound success and publicity, applications increase by about 18%. Just over a decade after Chung published those findings, the Colorado Buffaloes have made themselves a shining example of The Flutie Effect, or as modern analysts may be inclined to call it, The Prime Effect.


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