Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Luke Fickell is out, here are the candidates left in the hunt for Michigan State football coach

With no clear front-runner, here are the coaches who could take the mantle

February 10, 2020
Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio during the game against Northwestern at Ryan field on September 21, 2019. MSU defeated Northwestern 31-10.
Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio during the game against Northwestern at Ryan field on September 21, 2019. MSU defeated Northwestern 31-10. —
Photo by Connor Desilets | The State News

After taking a trip to meet with Cincinnati coach and front-runner for Michigan State football’s coaching job Luke Fickell, Athletic Director Bill Beekman arrived back in East Lansing Sunday night empty-handed.

While it couldn’t be assumed from that scene that Fickell would stay in Cincinnati off of Beekman’s traveling arrangements, the scene alluded to what would come.

On Monday it was confirmed that Fickell wouldn’t be the next coach of Michigan State Football. So with the front-runner out, who’s next on the coaching list?

The answer isn’t clear.

Over the weekend Beekman was also expected to meet with Colorado coach Mel Tucker. Tucker, a graduate assistant for the Spartans in his first collegiate job, turned the offer down.

So with Fickell and Tucker sticking with their respective teams, here is who could emerge as the front-runner for the Spartans:

Bret Bielema, New York Giants outside linebackers coach and senior assistant

Amid Fickell’s announcement that he would stay in Cincinnati, former Wisconsin and Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said he had “definite” interest in the position, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Bielema, current outside linebackers coach and senior assistant for the New York Giants, has experience in the Big Ten both as a coach and player.

In Bielema’s seven seasons with Wisconsin, he led the team to a 68-24 record, with three consecutive Big Ten Championships, starting in 2010.

From 1989 to 1992, Bielema was a defensive lineman at the University of Iowa.

During his time at Arkansas, Bielema was less successful. Posting a 29-34 record, Bielema was fired after five seasons.

According to the Free Press, Bielema has interest in returning to the college football scene, but there has been no word from the search committee about the former Big Ten champion.

Chris Creighton, Eastern Michigan head coach

While there has been no official announcement on any future interviews yet, Eastern Michigan coach Chris Creighton has been another name in question.

Creighton has amassed a 28-47 record in six seasons as head coach.

Despite the record, Creighton has put together a strong portfolio coaching in the MAC.

In his six seasons, he has taken the Eagles to three bowl games and two winning records. 21 of his 47 losses came in his first two seasons.

Creighton has helped Eastern Michigan to two winning records and three six-win seasons. The wins include three against Big Ten teams.

In 2017, Creighton’s Eagles left Piscataway, New Jersey with his first Big Ten victory, after taking down Rutgers 16-13.

The next two years Creighton would pull off more upsets.

During his 2018 season, he beat Purdue in the team's second game of the season. In 2019, Creighton and the Eagles defeated Illinois.

The Eastern Michigan head coach is 3-0 against Big Ten teams over the last three years, and has been valued as a good recruiter for the MAC team, signing 16 three-star recruits for the 2020 season.

Creighton, a dark horse in the hunt, hasn’t made any statement on the Spartans coaching position.

Pat Shurmur, Denver Broncos offensive coordinator

Pat Shurmur is a former Michigan State center and assistant coach.

After playing for the Spartans, Pat Shurmur was an assistant coach from 1988 through 1997. He has the most experience with MSU and beyond.

Shurmur learned under Michigan State legend George Perles and current Alabama coach Nick Saban.

After his stint as a college coach, Shurmur made his way to the NFL. He has spent more time in the league than any of the other candidates.  

Shurmur has been the head coach of both the Cleveland Browns and New York Giants, amassing a 19-46 record.

In between head coaching jobs, Shumur has taken the reins of several offenses. He is currently the offensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos.

Mike Tressel, Michigan State Spartans interim head coach

The only sure-thing option was already named the interim head coach of the Spartans, after 13-year Head Coach Mark Dantonio stepped down on Tuesday.

Current acting coach Mike Tressel has been with the Spartans as long as Dantonio, spending 13 seasons under the 114-win head coach.

For his first eight seasons, Tressel was the linebacker and special teams coach.

In 2014, Tressel moved up to defensive coordinator. He has led the No. 1 rushing defense in the FBS in both 2014 and 2018. In 2018, his overall defense was Top 10 in the FBS.

In 2019, Tressel became the assistant head coach.

While many have pushed for an out-of house change, Tressel has made himself the best option still employed by the Spartans.

The search committee met Monday morning and are expected to brief the Board of Trustees later in the day. There has been no word on who the next candidate to be interviewed will be.

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