Sunday October 1, 2023

Media Battle Heats Up As Skip Bayless, Stephen A. Smith Vie for Deion Sanders’ Spotlight

  • With a 2-0 start, Sanders’ No. 18 Buffaloes are the biggest story in college football right now, if not all sports.
  • “Undisputed” and “First Take” should fight over access to Coach Prime — and his program — for the rest of the season.
Deion Sanders
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Charles Barkley dislikes Skip Bayless. But the Godfather of “Embrace Debate” has one huge sports personality in his corner right now: Deion Sanders.

Since returning to the air on Aug. 28, Bayless has landed the red-hot Colorado coach not once but twice for live interviews on his revamped FS1 morning show “Undisputed Live.” Sanders’ interview after beating TCU in Week 1 has drawn nearly 1 million views on YouTube.

With a 2-0 start, Sanders’ No. 18 Buffaloes are the biggest story in college football right now, if not all sports. 

Sanders is the biggest interview “get” in sports TV right now. Both Bayless and new partner Michael Irvin have relationships with Sanders dating back to the mid-1990s, when Sanders and Irvin played for the Dallas Cowboys and Bayless covered the team.

Landing Coach Prime for the revamped “Undisputed” has given Bayless some bragging rights in his competition with former TV partners Stephen A. Smith and Shannon Sharpe of ESPN’s “First Take.” 

As usual, he goes all the way when Bayless supports a sports personality like Tom Brady or Tim Tebow. On “Undisputed,” Bayless hailed Sanders for pulling off the “greatest turnaround in college football history.” 

Naturally, Bayless is touting Coach Prime as a head coaching candidate for his beloved Dallas Cowboys.

“Deion Sanders would be SENSATIONAL as the Dallas Cowboys head coach,” Bayless tweeted to his 3.2 million followers. “I’m talking Super Bowls, plural.”

Added Bayless on his podcast: “I believe with all my heart and soul in Deion Sanders’ ability to do anything in life. But especially to coach. College football, pro football. If he puts his mind to it, he will beat you. I used to say about Tom Brady, ‘That’s one man I don’t bet against.’ Deion Sanders is another man I don’t  bet against.”

But ESPN’s Smith and Sharpe are rapidly catching up regarding media access to Coach Prime. 

On Friday morning, Smith, Sharpe, and Molly Qerim took “First Take” live on location in Boulder. Sanders and his quarterback son Shedeur Sanders, two-way star Travis Hunter, and Pat McAfee appeared on the show.

Coach Prime gave the “First Take” trio a gift of his signature sunglasses. Qerim called him a “friend of the show.” 

Sanders shot down the suggestion he’s headed for the NFL during his appearance. “I like it in Boulder. I love it right here,” he said as Buffs fans cheered.

Sharpe Boosts ‘First Take’ Ratings, Leaving Bayless Behind

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Meanwhile, McAfee is also taking his show on the road to Boulder. He boasted a loaded guest schedule Friday, including Sanders, Smith, The Rock, and Aaron Rodgers, fresh off his season-ending injury on “Monday Night Football.”

On Saturday, ESPN’s “College GameDay” and “SportsCenter” will set the table for ESPN’s 10 p.m. ET telecast of Colorado vs. Colorado State.

Despite not having broadcast rights to the game, Fox Sports’ “Big Noon Kickoff” will return to Boulder for the second week in a row. Rob Gronkowski and Lil Wayne will be special guests. 

To keep the peace between the rival college pregame shows, Sanders is scheduled to appear on both “GameDay” and “Big Noon Kickoff.”

Sanders didn’t appear on “Undisputed” on Friday. This is the second week in a row that Smith and Sharpe have personally courted Sanders in Boulder.

On their own time, they jetted out last Saturday to watch Sanders’ Buffs go 2-0. 

Smith tweeted a video of him hugging it out with Sanders to his 5.8 million followers. 

“My brother,” he wrote.

Look for Bayless’ “Undisputed” and Smith/Sharpe’s “First Take” to fight over access to Coach Prime — and his program — for the rest of the season.

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