Barstool Sports, the rowdy sports-information empire with a knack for smack talk, is getting into longer-form programming.
The company intends to launch “Coach Prime,” a documentary series that will follow Deion Sanders in his first season as head coach of the Jackson State Tigers, while calling attention to Historically Black College and Universities. Barstool will team up with SMAC Entertainment, the production company operated by former NFL executive Constance Schwartz-Morini and “Good Morning America” and Fox Sports host Michael Strahan.
Sanders “has been coaching his sons from first grade, and maybe even younger,” says Schwartz-Morini, in an interview. “After George Floyd’s murder, he felt he could make the most change and impact by pursuing an HBCU coaching job.”
The series will give viewers an exclusive look into Sanders’ efforts to make Jackson State into a college-football contender and prepare the young men on his team for futures on and off the field. Erika Nardini, Barstool Sports’ CEO, and Schwartz-Morini say they intend to produce six episodes that will launch in spring, and then, potentially, another six for the fall.
The series is slated to air on Barstool’s own app for smart TVs, as well as via its presence on Apple TV, and will also be available via its social-media channels.
Nardini acknowledges that long-form programming has not been a top Barstool goal. The company features dozens of outspoken personalities ranging from founder Dave Portnoy to Dan “Big Cat” Katz, popular for his time on the comedy-sports podcast “Pardon My Take.”
“A year ago, if you said, ‘Would Barstool Sports be doing a long-form series on HBCU football?” the answer would have been ‘Absolutely not,’” says Nardini, in an interview. “But we are where we are, and we are really excited about it. I think this will be the beginning of many projects.” Barstool has on occasion launched single-episode documentaries, she says, and has proven successful in a broader array of media ventures that at first blush might seem unlikely.
Sanders, known in many circles as “Prime Time,” embodies some of the Barstool Sports philosophy. He juggled careers in both the NFL and Major League Baseball and even founded a charter school in 2012. He has worked as an analyst for CBS Sports and Barstool Sports. “This is no holds barred, nothing held back, the good, the bad and the ugly,” says Schwartz-Morini. “Deion has been disruptive during his career and we wanted to continue to be disruptive.”
SMAC Entertainment and Barstool Sports are partners in the venture and will share revenue. The two are working to line up sponsors for the series, says Schwartz-Morini, and hopes to weave them into segments that show Sanders trying to help his athletes learn how to get along in life. Schwartz-Morini envisions a financial-services firm getting involved in an effort to help the athletes learn how to take care of their money.
The series is produced by Deion Sanders along with Strahan and Constance Schwartz-Morini of SMAC Entertainment and Nardini and Jen Simons of Barstool Sports. Mark W. Wright will serve as the series’ showrunner and director.