Deion Sanders wins Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year after Colorado loses 8 of 9

Nov 30, 2023, 8:32 AM | Updated: 9:40 am

Deion and Shadeur Sanders of the Colorado Buffaloes...

Colorado head coach Deion Sanders talks with his son and quarterback Shedeur Sanders during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Oregon, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023, in Eugene, Ore. (AP Photo/Amanda Loman)

(AP Photo/Amanda Loman)

DENVER (AP) — Deion Sanders reinvigorated a fanbase and put a downtrodden football program back on the map in his first season at Colorado.

For that, the Buffaloes coach was named Sportsperson of the Year by Sports Illustrated.

It was a roller-coaster inaugural season as Sanders took over a 1-11 Colorado team. But it was an entertaining ride, complete with sellouts, celebrities showing up on the Folsom Field sideline, media visits from major networks and of course progress on the field.

The Buffaloes sprinted out of the gate, going 3-0 and becoming the talk of college football. They finished by losing eight of their last nine to wind up 4-8.

Colorado lost every Pac-12 game in its final year with the conference, except for a 27-24 win on Oct. 7 against Arizona State.

Sanders did things his way, too. He overhauled his roster after he arrived from Jackson State and turned to the transfer portal in order to quickly rebuild. That rubbed some the wrong way.

Not that Sanders cared. He once quipped, “Your opinion of me is not the opinion that I have for myself.” Sanders frequently wears a Colorado sweatshirt that reads: “I ain’t hard 2 find,” a message to highly touted recruits that his door was open.

The Buffaloes are moving from the Pac-12 to the Big 12 next season.

Sanders will be featured on the cover in the Dec. 15 issue of Sports Illustrated. In the background of the picture taken at Folsom Field are his supporters, which includes his kids — quarterback Shedeur, defensive back Shilo, social media coordinator Deion Jr. and Buffaloes basketball player Shelomi. Also pictured are athletic director Rick George, Colorado Chancellor Philip DiStefano, super fan Peggy Coppom, who recently turned 99, his longtime business partner Constance Schwartz-Morini and a crowd of Buffaloes supporters.

This marks the seventh time Deion Sanders has appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, five times as a player and one other time when he was coach at Jackson State.

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

Ugly week for Sports Illustrated

The decision by Sports Illustrated to name Sanders as its Sportsperson of the year comes as the publication is in hot water for other reasons.

Sports Illustrated is the latest media company to see its reputation damaged by being less than forthcoming — if not outright dishonest — about who or what is writing its stories at the dawn of the artificial intelligence age.

The once-powerful publication said it was firing a company that produced articles for its website written under the byline of authors who apparently don’t exist. It denied a published report that stories themselves were written by an artificial intelligence tool.

On Monday, the Futurism website reported that Sports Illustrated used stories for product reviews that had authors it could not identify. Futurism found a picture of one author listed, Drew Ortiz, on a website that sells AI-generated portraits.

The magazine’s author profile said that “Drew has spent much of his life outdoors, and is excited to guide you through his never-ending list of the best products to keep you from falling to the perils of nature.”

Upon questioning Sports Illustrated, Futurism said all of the authors with AI-generated portraits disappeared from the magazine’s website. No explanation was offered.

Futurism quoted an unnamed person at the magazine who said artificial intelligence was used in the creation of some content as well — “no matter how much they say that it’s not.”

Sports Illustrated said the articles in question were created by a third-party company, AdVon Commerce, which assured the magazine that they were written and edited by humans. AdVon had its writers use a pen name, “actions we don’t condone,” Sports Illustrated said.

“We are removing the content while our internal investigation continues and have since ended the partnership,” the magazine said. A message to AdVon wasn’t immediately returned on Tuesday.

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Deion Sanders wins Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year after Colorado loses 8 of 9