Deion Sanders loses the assistant coach he demoted; Sean Lewis hired at San Diego State

SAN DIEGO — The assistant coach who recently was stripped of his play-calling duties by Deion Sanders has landed a new job.

Sean Lewis, the former offensive coordinator at Colorado under Sanders, has been hired as head coach of San Diego State, a person close to the situation confirmed to USA TODAY Sports. The person requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly. Lewis will replace Brady Hoke, who retired.

Lewis, 37, previously served as head coach at Kent State, where he directed explosive, fast-paced offenses, including one that averaged 606.5 yards and 49.8 points per game in 2020. He took those credentials to Colorado to work under Sanders in 2023, but his experience there got rocky after a 3-0 start.

Sean Lewis is leaving Colorado for the head coaching job at San Diego State.
Sean Lewis is leaving Colorado for the head coaching job at San Diego State.

What happened in his one season under Deion Sanders?

In one sequence, USA TODAY Sports observed Sanders expressing his displeasure toward Lewis after Sanders’ quarterback son, Shedeur, was sacked in the second quarter of a 28-16 loss at UCLA Oct. 28. The sack was one of seven in the game and that time ended a terrible three-and-out possession for Colorado with 12:42 left before halftime. Sanders made animated gestures toward Lewis with his arms, and Lewis and Shedeur stood there, stoically.

Sanders, a Pro Football Hall of Famer, then stripped Lewis of his play-calling duties for the next game despite the fact that the Buffaloes were 4-4 and ranked No. 5 nationally in passing yards per game with 330.

Sanders instead turned to former NFL head coach Pat Shurmur to call the plays, only to watch the Colorado offense do much worse in its final four games, all losses.

What happened after the play-calling change?

Before Lewis was demoted, the Buffs (4-8) were averaging 408.6 yards per game and had scored at least 36 points in five of eight games. After Lewis was demoted, the Buffs averaged 20.25 points and 273.5 yards per game as Shedeur Sanders was knocked out of action with injuries for the final game and a half.

“We’re not gonna demean Sean Lewis,” Deion Sanders said after making the change. “We’re not gonna do that. We’re not gonna take that tone. Sean is a good man. I think he’s a good play-caller. We just needed change at the time. We just needed to try something else at the time, and that’s what we did.”

At San Diego State, Lewis will take over a team that finished 4-8 this season in its second year playing at its new stadium in Mission Valley. A former player at Wisconsin, he will be expected to deliver the kind of high-flying scoring attack that will fill the seats at the stadium and go to bowl games regularly, as the Aztecs did in 12 of the previous 13 seasons.

Lewis was making $850,000 this season at Colorado in the first year of a three-year, $2.7 million contract but is allowed to break that contract without paying liquidated damages if he gets an NCAA or NFL head-coaching position.

He is the second staffer to leave Colorado since the end of the season last week. Former tight ends coach Tim Brewster announced he had resigned on social media site X, saying Sanders was a “truly amazing man and leader.” Brewster had been demoted to make room for Shurmur under the limit of 10 full-time assistant coaches after Sanders switched play-callers.

Colorado offensive line coach Bill O’Boyle also could follow Lewis to San Diego State after previously working with him at Kent State in the same role. Sanders wants to fortify the offensive line after it gave up 56 sacks in 2023, ranking second nationally in most sacks allowed.

Follow reporter Brent Schrotenboer @Schrotenboer. Email:

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Sean Lewis, former Colorado OC, hired as San Diego State head coach