New York Times takes a closer look at Prime Prep

Getty Images

From time to time, the charter school co-founded by Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders makes news.  Rarely good news.

From an alleged assault committed by Sanders to Sanders being fired to Sanders being rehired to Sanders being fired and rehired again to the charter school losing its charter, the signs of dysfunction have become obvious.  But the force of Sanders’ celebrity and personality have managed to keep hope alive — and maybe even to keep him and others out of jail.

That could change based on the examination of Prime Prep conducted by Michael Powell of the New York Times.  It paints the picture of a guy who opted to parlay his brand into a vehicle for enhancing that brand via the accumulation of great young athletes.  And maybe to make a little money along the way.

For example, Powell reports that the original proposal for the charter school explained that Sanders’ company, PrimeTimePlayer, “shall introduce” the school to “its vast corporate circle of influence,” which was “not limited to C.E.O.s, C.F.O.s.”  Of course, PrimeTimePlayer would keep 10 percent of the money raised as a fee, along with a monthly retainer ranging from $1,000 to $7,500.

The charter was awarded, because Prime Time . . . Prime Time . . . Prime Time.

“Sanders made himself available, and I was quite embarrassed by this, to pose for pictures and sign autographs for my colleagues on the board,” former Texas Board of Education member Michael Soto said regarding the charter approval process.  “The financial planning was suspect; the curriculum design was nonexistent — it was laughable.”

But the joke remains on anyone who thinks Prime Prep is dead.  Powell explains that school officials have exhibited a “striking confidence” that the school will regain its charter via the appeal process.  Sanders himself expressed optimism, via a bizarre interview he conducted with Powell.

After failing to get Sanders through more traditional vehicles of communication, Powell attended a football practice and approached Sanders when it ended.  Sanders insisted on having a witness, calling over friend and Prime Prep employee, Reginald Calhoun.  Sanders also produced a recording device.

“I asked about Prime Prep’s appeal,” Powell writes.  “[Deion] turned to Calhoun and lectured him on what an uninformed question this was, as if Calhoun had asked it. I tried another question, and Sanders again lectured Calhoun on his stupidity. Then Sanders told me he was having a private conversation.

“He turned and gave me a piercing stare, his megawatt [smile] gone cobalt. He walked off with a touch of swagger.”

That swagger has taken Sanders far.  At some point, it may no longer work.  He hasn’t reached that point yet, and possibly never will.