The Deion Sanders effect: Colorado sees record number of applications, including 50% spike from Black students

Colorado might have only gone 4-8 in its first season with Deion Sanders as head coach, but it was a winning season for the school in one very big way.

Sanders' debut season coincided with a 20% increase in applications from last year, adding up to a record-breaking 68,000 applicant pool for the fall of 2024, according to the Daily Camera's Olivia Doak. That includes a 50.5% increase in applications from Black and African American students and a 25.6% increase from Hispanic and Latino students.

The school will reportedly make offers to 51,000 students, of which 35,000 are non-residents of Colorado.

Assistant vice chancellor of admissions Jennifer Ziegenfus reportedly credited Sanders for raising Colorado's national profile, but stopped short of saying he was the direct cause:

“No doubt the exposure that CU Boulder has received since Coach Prime was hired has been tremendous,” she said. “It obviously showcases that a number of our national media outlets are attracting applicants from all over the world, but it’s really difficult for us to draw that causational line between Coach Prime and this application increase.

Sanders joined Colorado after two years at FCS Jackson State last year and quickly became one of the biggest stories in college sports. His first spring game saw a sellout crowd and the hype only increased when the Buffaloes started the season 3-0, including a season-opening win over a ranked TCU team.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - FEBRUARY 08: Deion Sanders attends the 13th Annual NFL Honors at Resorts World Theatre on February 08, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
High school students want to root for Deion Sanders. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic) (Jeff Kravitz via Getty Images)

That wound up being the peak as far as 2023 went. Colorado was humbled with a 42-6 loss to Oregon in its next game and finished its season on a 1-8 slide in a strong Pac-12. Sanders might have brought a ton of attention to Boulder, but a flurry of transfers couldn't take Colorado to the top after years as a Pac-12 doormat.

Those struggles didn't stop Sanders from being named Sports Illustrated's Sportsperson of the Year, but they still leave the coach with significant work to do this offseason. He once again has an enormous transfer class coming in, with 24 commits ranked by Rivals as the country's No. 2 transfer class. He also has a pair of new coordinators, with former NFL head coach Pat Shurmur running the offense and Cincinnati Bengals assistant Robert Livingston on the defense.

Sanders has become a highly controversial figure in college football, but his persona clearly resonates with high school students. And that means the Colorado admission department will have some extra work to do.