Football has been gone for a week. Michigan State coach Mel Tucker’s relentless start since his hiring on Feb. 12 was put to a halt when the NCAA froze all activities due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Tucker spoke on the Spartan Sports Network on Thursday morning, saying he has been doing everything to move the Spartans forward in any way he can.
“It’s heartbreaking for our student athletes and coaches not to be here on campus,” Tucker said, “But if I know anything about Spartan Nation, our coaches and our players, everyone involved, we have tremendous grit and resolve. I know when the time is safe and right, we’ll get back to hard work here on campus.”
Tucker was one of the first to implement working from home. Tucker, despite his love for the game, made the decision easily.
“It’s simple for me. It’s about people first,” Tucker said, “My players, the coaches, the staff's safety and health are most important for me as a head football coach. This is a global health crisis, this is not a football crisis.”
In any way he could, Tucker tried to help the cause and urged everyone else to react in ways that will help the community out.
While Tucker and his team are practicing social distancing more than football at the moment, he hasn’t stopped working with the group. Day-to-day operations have been taken online for the Spartans where they meet over the app Zoom.
“Communication is the key,” Tucker said, “For our coaches and our staff, we are using the Zoom application from everything to defensive staff meetings, full staff meetings, offensive meetings.”
Players are also on Zoom, as Tucker and his staff have made sure they are up to date on football and class.
“For our players we're implementing the same online video conferencing that our professors are using throughout the university,” he said. “Our academic support staff, as well as our coaches, are doing a fantastic job ... from a compliance standpoint and also in football. On the football side of it, I’m doing my team meetings through Zoom, using YouTube as well.”
Position coaches are also talking to their players via Zoom, at least three times a week. Strength and Conditioning have stayed up to date with their players as well, making sure they are still connected to their work.
Social distancing hasn’t halted recruiting either. Tucker has been keen on staying in contact with recruits during this time.
“We’re relentlessly recruiting electronically with text, emails, receiving calls,” Tucker said, “Making sure that our prospects ... are a priority for us and that we care about their health and well-being also.”
The conditions aren’t ideal, but the Spartans have been making them work.
“This is our new normal,” Tucker said, “We’re moving MSU football forward the very best, safe way we can, for our team, our school and for Spartan Nation.”
Tucker’s first year has been a whirlwind already. Now looking at teaching a new team a new playbook, with less time, the Spartans could be at a disadvantage come the season. But Tucker is worried about the bigger things at hand first.
“I don’t think ... anyone can honestly say they have the answer to that yet,” Tucker said, “We don’t know how the NCAA is going to deal with issues. That’s the least of my concerns about our team right now.”
His biggest concerns are his team's well-being.
“We’re worried about our student athletes, their physical, their emotional, their mental health at this time,” Tucker said. “When our players are here on campus we can see them, we can look them eye-to-eye, we can work with them, we know what services we have here for them on campus. Right now, they’re not here. They’re scattered about, back at their permanent homes, so I’m more concerned about are they safe, are they making smart decisions, do they have enough to eat and the football part of it is secondary.”
Though the Spartans work through a new norm, where football isn’t the priority right now, Tucker is confident that his team will come out of this stronger.
“What I do know is our players, our coaches, our administration, our fans are relentless, resilient,” Tucker said, “We’re going to come out of this thing stronger on the other side. And when the time is right, I look forward to getting back on the field with the players and the coaches, and Spartan Nation supporting us 100%. When the time is right, we are going to hit the ground running.”