Behind scenes, Schwartz-Morini guiding force for Coach Prime

One of Deion Sanders' most trusted business associates and friends is Constance Schwartz-Morini

Pat Graham
Tuesday 18 April 2023 18:04 BST

Everyone knows Deion Sanders. Behind the scenes and not as well known is the guiding force behind his evolution from “Prime Time” to “Coach Prime.”

The orchestrator, too, of the deal that brought Sanders to Boulder to revive a University of Colorado football program that's fallen on hard times.

Constance Schwartz-Morini is Coach Prime's trusted adviser /business associate/friend/guardian, one who's built a resume working with the likes of Hall of Famer Michael Strahan — her business co-founder turned “Good Morning America” co-anchor — and hip-hop artist Wiz Khalifa.

Really, though, Schwartz-Morini goes by many titles — psychologist, business incubator, life coach, mentor, award-winning producer, even “consigliere” (a name Snoop Dogg bestowed upon her). She has the ear of Fortune 500 executives, the respect of the NFL commissioner and the desire to open doors for others in what’s traditionally been a male-dominated industry.

“She's created a space and a lane that only she could walk in right now,” Sanders told The Associated Press. “She’s truly a visionary.”

By his own admission, Sanders wouldn't be here — about to lead the Buffaloes into a sold-out Folsom Field on Saturday for a spring game airing on ESPN — without a huge assist from Schwartz-Morini.

He was all set to spend his retirement fishing and relaxing before she convinced him that coaching should be his new calling. It led him to a wildly successful stint at Jackson State.

And then she touched base with a search firm to get the ball rolling on Sanders' arrival at Colorado, a program coming off a 1-11 season. She coordinated a meeting between Sanders and Colorado athletic director Rick George. Later, she and George had a dinner meeting at a Los Angeles restaurant, where they bonded over a brussels sprouts salad and several kinds of pasta dishes.

She told Sanders afterward she had a good feeling about what he could accomplish at Colorado. She was encouraged by George's promise that he would let Sanders be his charismatic self — complete with a film crew tagging along to document his every move.

That's how they worked out the parameters on a five-year, $29.5 million deal that lured Sanders and his coaching/social media team — along with a bunch of transfer-portal stars — to Boulder. His arrival has put the Buffaloes back on the college football map before they even play a game under their new coach.

“She’s very passionate about what she does and her partnership with Coach Prime," George said. "She’s very savvy.”

Growing up in Yonkers, New York, Schwartz-Morini was a high school softball player with no real interest in seeing the inside of a frog in biology class. So she brokered a deal: She would join the school’s bowling team that was coached by the science teacher if she could get out of having to take a scalpel to a frog.

Negotiation 101.

Schwartz-Morini got her first big break working at NFL properties in the early 1990s. She made an impression on Roger Goodell, who would succeed Paul Tagliabue as commissioner in 2006.

“Constance is a dynamo,” Goodell said. “Constance develops strong relationships and trust with everyone who works with her.”

She’s t he co-founder and CEO of SMAC Entertainment, a talent management firm and production company she started in 2011 with Strahan. The business she started at her kitchen table is now a boutique agency with offices in Los Angeles, New York and Boulder.

Her portfolio includes league kickoffs (assisting with Snoop Dogg’s youth football league ), along with helping launch clothing lines ( sports broadcaster Erin Andrews ) skin-care products ( Strahan ) and even posh pet gifts ( Snoop Dogg, of course).

Schwartz-Morini — a manager, not an agent — also works with NFL greats turned broadcasters (Troy Aikman) and her company deals with college athletes in the realm of name, image, likeness compensation (Buffaloes standouts Shedeur Sanders and Travis Hunter). Recently, Schwartz-Morini's team began representing Diana Flores, a flag football world champion.

Also on Schwartz-Morini’s plate — producer. She oversees film and TV projects, like the “Coach Prime” series on, appropriately enough, Prime Video, which was recently nominated for a sports Emmy award.

Really, though, it's about instilling confidence.

“She’s the encourager,” Strahan said in a phone interview. “The person who makes sure that I know that I’m capable of more than what I probably give myself credit for."

It’s a photo from her wedding day in 2015 that hints at the influence of Schwartz-Morini. Taken on a beach in Turks and Caicos, the picture includes Coach Prime and fellow NFL Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez standing close by her and her husband, Mike Morini. There’s Khalifa sitting in the sand and Strahan, the officiant for her ceremony that day, kneeling next to her, cigar in hand.

The rare time when Schwartz-Morini was the center of attention.

Usually, she’s somewhere in the room just watching, observing. Like at Sanders’ inaugural news conference last December in Boulder, where she soaked in the scene of cheering boosters and fans from the side.

Schwartz-Morini first crossed paths with Sanders at the Super Bowl following the 1993 season, and reconnected with him 15 years later. They've been teammates ever since.

He bounces ideas off her — like when he thought of becoming a full-time football studio analyst. Or maybe a recruiter for Florida State, his alma mater.

Her suggestion: Coaching college kids. That's how it was decided.

“She don’t play,” Sanders cracked. “Constance reshaped the whole thought process of who I am. I’m forever grateful, forever thankful and appreciative."

She also aspires to serve as a trailblazer for more powerful female voices in the sports and entertainment realm.

“At some point," Schwartz-Morini said, "you just want everybody to be, ‘She’s the best,' and not, ‘She’s the first.’"

Thirty years ago, at her first Super Bowl, Schwartz-Morini was one of the several women in attendance in a lead role. This year, there were female discussion panels, symposiums and meetings.

“What I admire most is that she is a devoted role model to women who are interested in a career in sports, music, and culture,” Goodell said.

Added Strahan: "I’m a father of three daughters. I want them to know who this badass woman is, the one who’s guiding my career. This is someone who’s really a powerful force.”


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