Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Comparing Michigan State's and LSU’s head coaching jobs as speculation swirls around Tucker

October 19, 2021
<p>Head Coach Mel Tucker talks to junior linebacker Quavaris Crouch. The Spartans found a way to hold on against the Hoosiers with a 20-15 win, scraping to their first 7-0 start since 2015 on Oct. 16, 2021.</p>

Head Coach Mel Tucker talks to junior linebacker Quavaris Crouch. The Spartans found a way to hold on against the Hoosiers with a 20-15 win, scraping to their first 7-0 start since 2015 on Oct. 16, 2021.

Photo by Devin Anderson-Torrez | The State News

There's a lot of speculation swirling around East Lansing after Louisiana State University, or LSU, and their Head Coach Ed Orgeron agreed to part ways at the end of this season.

The hot start for Michigan State has generated a lot of buzz around Michigan State Head Coach Mel Tucker’s performance turning around the Spartans and leading them to its first 7-0 start since 2015 following a 2020 season with only two wins all year. 

National college football analysts have penciled in Tucker as a finalist for Coach of the Year already and now his name is being mentioned for some of the top coaching jobs in the country. LSU is reported to be interested in pursuing Tucker to fill its head-coaching vacancy, according to The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman.

While there is no concrete news or sourcing to back up the speculation and rumors that would suggest any interest on Tucker's end, we explored the in's and out's of the Michigan State and LSU coaching jobs.

Michigan State

Tucker signed to be Michigan State’s coach in Feb. 2020 after finishing his first season as a college head coach at Colorado at 5-7. Before that, Tucker was Georgia’s defensive coordinator for a team that went to the national championship in 2018 and worked throughout the SEC before as a defensive assistant. 

Tucker signed a six-year, $3.8 million per year contract with Michigan State. The university pulled out all the stops and the checkbook to get Tucker, making him the 13th highest-paid coach in the country, according to USA Today. Once Tucker signed, he was given the freedom to bring in top coordinators Jay Johnson and Scottie Hazelton for more than $900,000 annually, making them two of the top-30 paid assistants in the country. 

Once the pieces were in place, Tucker went to work to put his fingerprints all over the Spartan program. He reinvigorated the training and recruiting efforts to increase Michigan State’s stock as a legit program again. The on-field efforts were not present immediately, with MSU going 2-5 in Tucker’s first year, but wins over Michigan and Northwestern showed that MSU was going to be at least frisky under Tucker.

He has worked with the MSU administration and community, directly and indirectly, to shape the future of Michigan State athletics as well. His performance in his first year at the helm and conversations with former MSU basketball player Mat Ishbia helped secure the largest donation in MSU Athletics history to improve MSU football and basketball facilities. 

Tucker was also involved in the hiring of Alan Haller as Michigan State’s Athletic Director this fall. Haller, who was the liaison between the football program and the athletics department and has a good relationship with Tucker. His experience with football was a leading factor in his hiring. 

On the field, things have gotten better too. Tucker has led Michigan State to a perfect 7-0 start to 2021, matching the win total through his first two seasons as a college coach. He reshaped the team using the transfer portal and utilized his first offseason with the team to make drastic improvements.

In short, Tucker has gotten everything he’s asked for so far from Michigan State. From administrative support to handsome compensation and unexpected results, Tucker is in a good spot at Michigan State. It doesn’t seem likely that he will abandon ship before seeing out his efforts to revamp the program where he got his start as a college coach under former LSU coach and current University of Alabama head coach Nick Saban. 

The interest from other schools shows that Tucker is doing what he needs to do and has raised his stock as one of the top coaches in the country. If the success continues and Michigan State continues its strong recruiting efforts under Tucker, the rumors and offers will continue to swirl around his name as jobs open up around the country.

Tucker is free to leave if he wants if he is offered something that he deems as undeniable. Tucker owes the university a buyout if he leaves before his contract expires. If he leaves before Jan. 15, 2022, he would owe the university $2.5 million. The buyout decreases by $500,000 annually until 2024.

LSU

The interest from any school is flattering, but when it's LSU, it means you are seen as one of the transcendent names in head coaching. LSU is widely considered one of the best jobs in the country. The school has a bevy of resources, has a rich pedigree and history of success in the strongest conference in the country and exposure to become one of the faces of college football.

Louisiana is one of the best states in the country in terms of high school football talent and LSU is the only major school in the state to directly tap into that line of talent. LSU regularly secures top-five recruiting classes in the country and frequently sends players like current Minnesota Viking cornerback and wide receiver Patrick Peterson and Justin Jefferson to the NFL. A recruiting junky like Tucker would absolutely thrive in that environment.

The last three coaches for LSU — Saban, Les Miles and Orgeron — have all won a national title in their time in Baton Rouge. LSU is the only school in the country that can boast that kind of institutional success over the 21st century throughout different regimes, showing that a good coach can easily reach the promised land with LSU’s resources.

LSU is also very desperate to win and will do so at all costs. They fired Orgeron just 21 months after he led the Tigers to the National Championship in 2019. The relationship soured between them so much that LSU paid him $18 million to leave. That level of financial support shows that LSU is not messing around and could easily pay Tucker’s buyout and make him one of the highest-paid coaches in the country if they wanted to. 

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Tucker has ties to the SEC after spending years in the conference as a defensive assistant. His two former mentors, Saban and University of Georgia head coach Kirby Smart, dominate the conference. Tucker could be interested to make his mark at one of the blue-chip programs and put his name in the upper echelon of college coaches.

At the very least, the potential pay raise gives Tucker leverage to revisit his contract with Michigan State if he’s interested in more money. Another rebuilding project at the third school in four years might be too much for Tucker and he can use the interest around his name for a raise. After getting everything he’s asked for so far from MSU, more money at the very least could be the end result of the rumors swirling around Tucker.

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