Michigan State is giving Mel Tucker a $95 million, 10-year contract, making an aggressive move to keep a football coach who potentially could have left for LSU or the NFL.
“I am honored to be a part of the Spartan process today, and for years to come,” Tucker wrote Wednesday in a post on Twitter.
The 12th-ranked Spartans (9-2, 6-2 Big Ten) close the regular season against Penn State (7-4, 4-4) on Saturday at home.
Tucker’s contract establishes him as one of the richest coaches in college football.
Only Alabama’s Nick Saban, one of his mentors, who makes $9,753,221 a year, is paid more on an annual basis, according to the USA Today coaches’ salaries database.
Tucker’s 10-year deal puts him in select company with two coaches with the same term: Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher. Swinney’s contract is worth $92 million and Fisher’s deal will pay him more than $9 plus million a year, starting in 2022.
Tucker’s deal that expires Jan. 15, 2032, will have a $5.9 million base salary, $3.2 million in supplemental compensation for media and personal appearances along with a $400,000 contingent annual bonus.
“We’re excited to have Mel here for the next 10 years,” United Wholesale Mortgage president and CEO Mat Ishbia, one of the donors funding Tucker’s new deal, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. “He’s a winner. He represents Michigan State in a fantastic way and we’re excited for the future.
“We got a winner and we’re not letting a winner leave Michigan State. Mel didn’t want to leave, but the reality is he’s the hottest name in football.”
The 49-year-old Tucker is getting a boost in pay as part of a long-term deal because of what he has done so far, and what has happened in the past at Michigan State.
After winning just two games in his debut during the pandemic-shortened season, Tucker has led one of college football’s most surprising teams. The Spartans started the season unranked and overlooked and now have a chance to win 10 games and earn a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl game.
No. 2 Ohio State did show Tucker’s team how far it has to go in last week’s 56-7 win that ended the Spartans’ championship hopes.
Michigan State was very motivated to give Tucker every reason to stay after losing Saban to LSU in November 1999.
“There was a time Michigan State had the best football and basketball coach with Nick Saban and Tom Izzo,” Ishbia told the AP. “Now, we have a chance to have the best coaching duo again in America and we’re going to pay Mel like he left.”
Tucker was a graduate assistant at Michigan State for Saban during the 1997 and 1998 seasons, when he made $400 a week and slept under a desk hoping the head coach would be impressed by his dedication.
Even before the championship-caliber program in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, announced it was parting ways with Ed Orgeron earlier this season, Tucker was mentioned as a candidate in part because he coached the Tigers’ defensive backs under Saban in 2000 and has an impressive resume with stints on staffs at Ohio State and Georgia.
Tucker’s ties to the NFL also made it likely that pro teams with coaching openings would try to pry him away this winter. Tucker was 2-3 a decade ago as an interim coach in Jacksonville, where he was defensive coordinator, a role he also had with his hometown Cleveland Browns and Chicago over his 10 seasons on NFL sidelines.
Ishbia was a walk-on guard on Izzo’s 2000 national championship basketball team. Earlier this year, Ishbia made a $32 million donation for Michigan State’s athletics and he is giving $500 a month to the school’s football and men’s basketball players. St. Andre is the founder and CEO of Shift Digital, a marketing company.
“This is a process to build a championship-winning program,” Tucker said.
After coach Mark Dantonio retired in February 2020, Tucker more than doubled his total compensation by leaving Colorado after only one season with a 5-7 record to sign a six-year deal worth $5.5-plus million per year at Michigan State.
Tucker didn’t have much time with his new team last year before the pandemic pushed players away from campus, and it showed with a 2-5 record.
With an influx of transfers, including Heisman Trophy-candidate running back Kenneth Walker, the Spartans won their first eight games this season, including a second straight win over rival Michigan.
“The decision to extend Mel Tucker’s contract is not based on one year of results, but rather it’s an investment in a promising future for Spartan football,” athletic director Alan Haller said.
Whether the season ends with successes or setbacks, the school and its fans should not have to worry about losing their coach.
“Michigan State is not a stepping stone, it’s a destination, and Mel knows that,” Ishbia said. “He didn’t want to leave, but when someone is all in and they’re loyal, you take care of them.”
Sources told Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel that Michigan State is expected to finalize a new contract for Tucker on Wednesday night. Tucker later confirmed the news by releasing a statement.
Process driven. Feeling grateful. 🙏🏾 pic.twitter.com/TDv4uCsWtH
— Mel Tucker (@Coach_mtucker) November 25, 2021
The Detroit Free Press previously reported that MSU was working on a 10-year, $95 million contract to keep Tucker in East Lansing. Yahoo Sports confirmed the massive commitment and financial investment in Tucker.
Can confirm that Mel Tucker’s Michigan State deal is $95 million over 10 years, as @freep reported. Source adds to @YahooSports that the deal is fully guaranteed and includes the potential for lucrative bonuses.
— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) November 25, 2021
In his second season in East Lansing, Tucker has led the Spartans to a quick turnaround following the departure of longtime head coach Mark Dantonio. Michigan State, currently No. 12 in the College Football Playoff rankings, has a 9-2 record entering Saturday’s regular season finale against Penn State.
As a result of the work he has done at MSU, Tucker’s name has been floated around as a possible candidate for several of the open jobs in college football. That includes LSU. Tucker spent several years as an SEC assistant, including as the defensive backs coach for Nick Saban at Alabama and multiple seasons as the defensive coordinator at Georgia. He also spent time as a defensive assistant in the NFL.
The Spartans have been ranked as high as No. 3 in the CFP rankings this season but have lost two of their past three games. Nonetheless, Tucker’s team has greatly surpassed expectations after going 2-5 in the 2020 season shortened by the COVID-19 pandemic. The highlight of the season was a 37-33 come-from-behind victory over Michigan on Oct. 30. It was a win that improved MSU’s record to 8-0 and moved the Spartans into the top four of the rankings.
Before arriving at Michigan State, Tucker spent the 2019 season as the head coach at Colorado. The Buffs went 5-7 in Tucker’s lone season in Boulder.
Tucker’s new deal comes on the heels of James Franklin agreeing to a new 10-year contract to remain at Penn State. Like Tucker, Franklin’s name has also been connected to multiple prominent jobs on the market, including LSU, USC and Florida.
With Tucker and Franklin off the market, where will those schools turn? There are also Power Five programs like TCU, Virginia Tech, Washington and Washington State that also have head-coaching openings entering the final weekend of the regular season. And there could be more.
|Annual salary||$5.5 million|
|Born||January 4, 1972
|Coaching career (HC unless noted)|
|1997–1998||Michigan State (GA)|
|1999||Miami (OH) (DB)|
|2001–2003||Ohio State (DB)|
|2004||Ohio State (co-DC)|
|2005–2007||Cleveland Browns (DB)|
|2008||Cleveland Browns (DC)|
|2009–2011||Jacksonville Jaguars (DC)|
|2011||Jacksonville Jaguars (interim)|
|2012||Jacksonville Jaguars (AHC/DC)|
|2013–2014||Chicago Bears (DC)|
|Head coaching record|
|Accomplishments and honors|
|As an assistant coach/coordinator:|
Melvin Tucker II (born January 4, 1972) is an American football coach and former player. He is currently the head football coach at Michigan State University. He was previously the head coach at the University of Colorado.
Tucker was the interim head coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars of the National Football League (NFL) for five games in 2011. He has worked as the defensive backs coach at the Ohio State University and the University of Alabama and as the defensive coordinator for both the Chicago Bears of the NFL as well as the University of Georgia.