Thursday, February 13, 2020

Michigan State to hire Mel Tucker, Colorado coach and former Nick Saban assistant

By Bruce Feldman Feb 11, 2020

Colorado coach Mel Tucker and Michigan State have agreed in principle to make him the new head football coach at MSU, people with knowledge of the matter told The Athletic on Tuesday night. After the 48-year-old Cleveland native turned down initial interest late last week, MSU power brokers came back repeatedly to Tucker’s reps with an offer that was impossible to ignore.
People with knowledge of Tucker’s deal with the Spartans said it doubles his Colorado coaching salary pool (which was $3.15 million in 2019), includes a substantial increase to the Michigan State strength and conditioning staff budget and program resources and will more than double Tucker’s Colorado salary, which is around $2.7 million.
On Feb. 7, while Tucker was on a Colorado donor tour, his name surfaced in a Detroit Free Press report that the Spartans planned to interview him for the Michigan State vacancy. Tucker discussed the initial MSU conversations with Colorado AD Rick George, according to people familiar with the matter.  Tucker’s tour was about raising funds for the Buffs program, so on Saturday he tried to quell speculation by telling Buffs donors that he was committed to doing his job there. On Monday, after Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell — a strong candidate for the MSU job — announced he was staying with the Bearcats, the Spartans circled back to Tucker’s reps with an offer not just for the head coach but for his staff and for the program that he felt he needed to compete for national titles.
“My understanding is that Coach Tucker was completely transparent with CU’s Rick George, from MSU’s first contact until their last push today,” a person with knowledge of the situation told The Athletic on Tuesday night.
The hiring of Tucker by Michigan State away from Colorado is another example that speaks to the widening gulf in resources between the SEC/Big Ten and the rest of college football thanks in large part to a growing revenue gap, a topic The Athletic addressed two weeks ago.
The former Wisconsin defensive back began his coaching career at Michigan State on Nick Saban’s staff in the late 1990s. In the wake of Mark Dantonio stepping down after 13 seasons at Michigan State, Tucker has had several influential Spartan power brokers pushing for him to be the next coach to take over the program.
Tucker has been on national championship-winning staffs at Ohio State and Alabama and spent three seasons as the defensive coordinator at Georgia before taking over at Colorado in 2019. He led the Buffs to two Top 25 wins in his debut 5-7 season. The Buffaloes’ recently signed recruiting class was ranked No. 7 in the Pac-12 by 247Sports — CU’s highest-ranked group since joining the conference in 2011.
Tucker’s roots in the Big Ten are significant. His parents and brother still live in Ohio, and Tucker was part of the first recruiting class at Wisconsin for coach Barry Alvarez. He was a member of the Badgers’ 1993 Big Ten champion team that beat UCLA in the Rose Bowl. At Ohio State, he recruited four players who would eventually become NFL first-round draft picks and the 2006 Heisman Trophy winner, quarterback Troy Smith.
(Photo: Dustin Bradford / Getty Images)

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