Mel Tucker has taken over as the new head football coach at Michigan State, and he is apparently planning some big changes.
Tucker is not going to retain any of Mark Dantonio’s assistant coaches, the Detroit Free Press’ Chris Solari reported on Thursday night.
New MSU football coach Mel Tucker will not retain any of Mark Dantonio's assistant coaches, a source with knowledge of the situation confirmed to the Free Press. An MSU spokesman could not comment.
— Chris Solari (@chrissolari) February 14, 2020
Tucker will have big bucks at his disposal when building his coaching staff. Not only did Michigan State double the salary Tucker was making at Colorado, but they also reportedly gave him double the money pool for his staff.
Tucker may want to use that extra money to try luring some of his previous assistants from Boulder. Colorado couldn’t afford to keep Tucker and probably would find similar difficulties if this situation arose.
Tucker went 5-7 last season, which was his first at Colorado. Michigan State is coming off consecutive 7-6 seasons under Dantonio, who resigned the day after being accused of NCAA violations.
Nick Saban’s second college job and first power conference head coaching position came at Michigan State, and it’s clear he still feels rather strongly about the university.
According to Tony Paul of the Detroit News, Saban actively reached out to Michigan State athletic director Bill Beekman and offered his assistance in the school’s coaching search. Saban reportedly told Beekman that he was “very interested in Michigan State having the right person,” and the Spartans eagerly accepted the Alabama coach’s offer to help.
It’s not a coincidence that the Spartans ultimately hired a former Saban assistant in Mel Tucker. Tucker was a graduate assistant under Saban at Michigan State, and served as an assistant head coach to Saban at Alabama in 2015. Saban was privately a major proponent of Tucker’s candidacy, and the Alabama coach cited Tucker’s ability to recruit the south, as well as his experience at both the NFL and college level, as major selling points to Michigan State leadership.
Saban has been known to go the extra mile when it comes to certain things in the coaching profession. Apparently, that even includes actively helping his former employers find new coaches.
Michigan State has found its new head football coach.
The Spartans have hired Mel Tucker as the new man to lead the program, The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman reported on Tuesday night.
The news comes a week after Mark Dantonio surprisingly stepped down as Michigan State’s head coach a day after he was accused of NCAA violations.
Tucker, who was 5-7 last season as Colorado’s head coach, was one of the people Michigan State courted, but he declined their initial interest. The Spartans focused on Luke Fickell for the search, but he turned them down on Monday.
According to Feldman, Michigan State power brokers came back to Tucker with a much improved offer — one the coach could not ignore.
Feldman says Michigan State will more than double the $2.7 million Tucker was making at Colorado and double the salary pool for Tucker’s assistant coaches, which was $3.15 million in 2019.
Tucker, 48, is from Cleveland and played college ball at Wisconsin. His first coaching job was as a graduate assistant on Nick Saban’s staff at Michigan State in 1997-98.
Tucker has served as a defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, Chicago Bears, and Georgia Bulldogs during his coaching career. He’ll have his hands full coaching in the same division with Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan.
The off-field turmoil that has engulfed Michigan State over the past few years is apparently hindering the team’s coaching search.
Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell was the Spartans’ top candidate for the role. Michigan State interviewed Fickell on Sunday and made it clear that the job was his if he wanted it. According to David Jesse of the Detroit Free Press, Fickell and his wife Amy had significant concerns about the Michigan State campus culture, and that played a role in Fickell’s decision to turn down the job and stay at Cincinnati.
Michigan State was aware of Fickell’s reservations and sent senior associate athletic director for compliance Jennifer Smith along to the interview to try to deal with the coach’s concerns but was unsuccessful in doing so.
The years of controversy that have surrounded Michigan State are clearly weighing on the school. While the Larry Nassar scandal is not related to the football program, it has cast a shadow on the university since 2016 and led to the resignation of former president Lou Anna Simon. There have also been reports about widespread sexual assaults within the football and basketball programs, and former football coach Mark Dantonio was the subject of a lawsuit that alleged multiple NCAA rules violations. With all that in mind, it’s not really a huge surprise that the school is struggling to attract high-quality coaching talent as the search goes on.
The Michigan State Spartans are scrambling for other options after Luke Fickell turned down the job Monday, and a name familiar to Big Ten fans reportedly wants the job.
According to Rainer Sabin of the Detroit Free Press, former Wisconsin and Arkansas coach Bret Bielema has “definite” interest in the Michigan State job. Bielema went 68-24 at Wisconsin, then moved to Arkansas, where he struggled mightily over the course of five seasons.
Bielema recently accepted a job with the New York Giants, but is said to be eager to get back to coaching in college. It is unclear if Michigan State has any interest or if it’s simply one-sided on Bielema’s part. They may opt to stick with Mike Tressel on an interim basis as opposed to settling and handing out a multi-year deal to a coach they’re not in love with.
The Spartans spoke to Fickell on Sunday and the job was essentially his if he wanted it, but he decided he didn’t. This comes on top of a former Michigan State assistant turning down the job as well, which will leave the school scrambling. However good or bad the job is, it’s hard to find a quality coach in mid-February who is willing to leave a school and take over elsewhere after National Signing Day is already finished.
Michigan State is working hard to find a new football coach, but the list of candidates is shrinking against their wishes.
Colorado coach Mel Tucker pulled his name from consideration for the job Saturday, joining San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh in declining to interview for the position. That, according to Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports, has essentially made the Spartan coaching search Luke Fickell or bust.
We’ve reported all along that this search has felt like Luke Fickell or bust. With Saleh declining to meet with MSU officials and Tucker pulling out, that notion continues to loom large. https://t.co/RctdosClS8
— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) February 8, 2020
Fickell now holds all the cards here, as he’s the big name remaining in the search. He has a good gig with Cincinnati, so he can ask for a lot of money and use his leverage to his advantage if he does want to take the job. While it’s been reported that he’s a top target since Mark Dantonio’s departure, he has so far claimed to have no contact with anyone from Michigan State.
Michigan State isn’t a bad job, but the late date of Dantonio’s exit is likely making it hard to get top targets fully interested. If the pursuit of Fickell falls short, the Spartans are likely to stick with interim coach Mike Tressel for at least one season.
Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell has been the name most consistently linked to the Michigan State head coach, but he’s distancing himself from that talk as much as possible.
Fickell said he has talked to “nobody” from Michigan State aside from Mark Dantonio in the last month, as he considers Dantonio a friend.
Luke Fickell on ESPNU Radio now: "I have talked to nobody. That’s the truth. Obviously I’m very good friends with Mark Dantonio…But I have not communicated or talked to anybody besides Mark Dantonio in the last three or four weeks from Michigan State." #Bearcats
— Justin Williams (@Williams_Justin) February 5, 2020
This doesn’t mean Fickell won’t eventually speak to the Spartans. It’s very early in the process and it’s not even clear if Michigan State’s coaching search has started in earnest yet. It may be that they are still compiling lists of potential interviewees. The Cincinnati coach is said to be the early favorite for the job, and he’ll have a hard time turning down a Big Ten job if they give him a call.