Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Michigan State football to hire Colorado coach Mel Tucker

February 12, 2020
Colorado coach Mel Tucker watches the action from the sideline during the game against the University of Arizona at Folsom Field. Oct. 5, 2019. Photo by Kevin Wu / CU Independent. Photo courtesy CU Independent.
Colorado coach Mel Tucker watches the action from the sideline during the game against the University of Arizona at Folsom Field. Oct. 5, 2019. Photo by Kevin Wu / CU Independent. Photo courtesy CU Independent. —

After a long search, Michigan State football has found its new coach in Mel Tucker, the former Colorado coach, as first reported by The Athletic's Bruce Feldman and confirmed by The State News.

The hire will become official once the move is approved by MSU's Board of Trustees Wednesday evening, according to an official hiring announcement from the university.

The board will hold its meeting at 5 p.m. at the Hannah Administration Building, and Tucker will be introduced at a press conference at 6:30 p.m. in the Breslin Center.

After former coach Mark Dantonio’s retirement, Tucker was contacted by the MSU athletic department, but initially turned down the chance for an interview. The Athletic reports that MSU will more than double the 48-year-old's current $2.7 million salary at Colorado and significantly increase his budget for assistants and strength and conditioning coaches.

In his one season as coach of the Buffaloes, Tucker led his team to a 5-7 record and brought in the 35th-ranked 2020 recruiting class, per 247 Sports. He has a reputation as a recruiting ace, as that 2020 Colorado class has recruits from locations as disparate as Mississippi, Massachusetts, Arizona and Australia.

The Cleveland native was a Rose Bowl-winning defensive back for Wisconsin from 1991-94 before beginning his college career. He is one of just 13 African-American head coaches at the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) level, and is the second African-American coach to patrol the sidelines at Spartan Stadium, after Bobby Williams did so from 1999-2002.

Tucker has Michigan State ties as he was a graduate assistant from 1997-1998 under current Alabama coach Nick Saban. 

"I learned everything, I did everything," Tucker told The Athletic's Max Olson at Pac-12 media days in July, of his brief stint in East Lansing 20-plus years ago. "That was back when the staff was small. There were two GAs on offense and two GAs on defense and that was it. Mark Dantonio was the defensive backs coach. So I was working with Nick and Mark in the secondary on the defensive side of the ball. And all of the coaches, for some reason, they kinda took to me and kinda took care of me."

The ties to Dantonio and Saban continued past East Lansing. When Saban left to coach LSU in 2000, he brought Tucker along as his defensive backs coach for a season. When Dantonio became defensive coordinator under Jim Tressel at Ohio State in 2001, he hired Tucker to be his defensive backs coach. Tucker won a national championship with the Buckeyes in 2002.

Tucker also has an NFL background, serving as a defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns in 2008, Jacksonville Jaguars from 2009-11 and Chicago Bears from 2013-14. Tucker took over as the interim coach of the Jaguars in 2011, when coach Jack Del Rio was fired, and garnered a 2-3 record. 

After his stint in the NFL, Tucker returned to college, and served as the associate head coach for Alabama in 2015, winning another national championship, and then became defensive coordinator at Georgia for three seasons before leaving to coach Colorado.

This article has been updated to reflect Michigan State's official hiring announcement. Stay with The State News for continued coverage of the coaching hire.

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