Canzano: Everything -- and The Sink -- for Coach Prime
Spring game is a welcome circus in Boulder.
“The Sink” is located on University Hill, less than a mile from Folsom Field. The eatery has been open for 100 years and is a popular hangout for University of Colorado students looking for a burger, pizza, beer, sandwich or a salad.
Robert Redford worked at “The Sink” when he was a student in Boulder. President Obama dined there once. So did ex-Secretary of State Madeline Albright and actor Dan Aykroyd. And Guy Fieri featured the place on his Food Network show “Diners Drive-Ins and Dives.”
It’s seen some stuff over the years.
On Saturday, Colorado will host 45,000 fans for the spring football game. The athletic department announced this week that season tickets are sold out for the first time in 27 years. The Buffaloes have never sold out season tickets before August.
It’s mid-April, folks.
On Tuesday morning, I dialed “The Sink” and reached managing partner Tell Jones. He was working on the restaurant’s kitchen order for the week. He instructed me to email him a list of questions about Saturday and he’d get back to me.
A few minutes earlier, I called a nearby Starbucks coffee shop. The employee who answered explained that the company prohibits staff from talking with media members. He referred me to a corporate hotline. Before hanging up, the employee couldn’t help himself.
“I’ll tell you this,” he whispered, “we’re staffing double for Saturday. Nobody knows what to expect.”
ESPN will broadcast Colorado’s spring game on Saturday. It’s the only game in the nation getting that kind of exposure. Curtis Snyder, in charge of football communications at Colorado, told me that the university has credentialed 260 media members for the spring game.
Snyder is in his first year in charge. He took over for long-time sports information director David Plati, who semi-retired at the end of last season. Per Snyder, Colorado football practices have seen “seven to 10 times more media” than last season.
Brian Howell, a long-time beat reporter for The Boulder Daily Camera, told me: “Colorado’s last road game last year was at Washington. I was the only reporter in the (visiting) post-game news conference. To go from that to 15 to 20 people at every practice right now is insane.”
Can we all just take a moment to appreciate the hire made by Colorado athletic director Rick George?
After parting ways with Karl Dorrell after a 0-5 start, George contracted a search firm — Eastman & Beaudine — to run interference. He talked with several key boosters and ex-players to get feedback. When the AD heard there was interest from Deion Sanders he started watching video clips.
Said George, in a podcast interview with me and Jon Wilner: “I think most ADs have a short list of people when they think they may make a change. I started developing that. I saw the 60 Minutes interview and some of the other interviews. I started looking at YouTube and doing my research on him and others, but on him there was a lot of material out there.”
Colorado’s first five regular-season games look as fun as a grease fire. The schedule features a non-conference opener at TCU, followed by home games vs. Nebraska and Colorado State. Then, Pac-12 play opens at Oregon and then home vs. USC.
The tenure of Coach Prime will be measured by wins and losses but it’s difficult to view the elevated profile of Colorado football this spring and not think the hire has already paid off.
For the university.
For the Pac-12.
For businesses in the City of Boulder.
“From day one,” George said, “Coach Prime was the guy at the top of the list and he ended at the top of the list.”
I’ve polled a handful of opposing Pac-12 coaches about Colorado’s blistering spring trajectory. They’re mostly skeptical that Colorado will win a pile of games this first season. One opposing coach doubted that the Buffaloes have enough depth at offensive and defensive line to get to more than four or five victories.
Another Pac-12 head coach said — in a tone laced with admiration and appreciation — that Sanders wisely hired a defensive head coach (Charles Kelly) and offensive head coach (Sean Lewis) and left himself “free to be out front where he can just be Coach Prime.”
There’s wide speculation that Colorado will be the most active Pac-12 school in the remaining 12 days of the current transfer-portal period. The Buffaloes coaching staff is telling reporters that it may add as many as 25 transfers before the window closes on April 30.
Where is this all going?
We’ll soon see.
There’s a lot of room to grow still. In fact, the Colorado school record for credentialed media members for a football game is 601. That came in 1989 vs. Nebraska. The game was televised on CBS with Jim Nance and Pat Haden on the call.
“We had to break about 80 stools out to fit everyone in the press box,” remembered Plati, the long-time head of Colorado’s sports information department.
I covered Jerry Tarkanian years ago in his final job. Fresno State hired the Hall of Fame coach and immediately infused the program with enthusiasm, sponsorships, donations, high-profile transfers and drew up plans for a new basketball arena in a vacant lot on the corner of the campus.
PBS sent a documentary crew to capture Tarkanian during one of his early seasons. The program also landed on 60 Minutes, albeit in a negative light. In seven seasons, Tarkanian made the NCAA Tournament only twice. He won exactly one tournament game. Yet, all these years later, the hire of Tarkanian is roundly celebrated as a success. For all the trouble and expense, the 18,000-seat Save Mart Center remains “The House that Tark built” in Fresno.
Coach Prime is on his way up as a head coach, not out like Tark. He’ll coach his son, Shedeuer, this season. The Colorado program feels vibrant and relevant for the first time in nearly 30 years. There is little downside. Even if Sanders wins big and leaves after a couple of seasons for another job, Colorado benefits. If his tenure somehow fizzles, it was still worth taking the swing.
“The Sink” did get back to me on Tuesday. The managing partner, Tell Jones, told me that a typical Colorado spring game wouldn’t normally cause the restaurant to make any additional staffing plans. But this Saturday, the eatery will schedule like it’s a normal regular-season home football game.
“About double the staff out front,” he said.
The restaurant takes delivery of its food orders on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. The trucks pull in and unload. All this week, “The Sink” is placing double orders for food, liquor, beer and wine.
Has the managing partner seen anything like it before?
“Not in my tenure,” said Jones. “But when President Obama came it had the same kind of feel is what I’m told.”
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C'mon, people - how about a little love for "The Prime". This column of John's explains the state of college football than anything else you will read this season, just sayin'
Prime is going to pillage the portal. That’s all he wants why recruit 18 year olds when you can get men 22 or 23 that have already made the adjustment to college life.