Michigan State head football coach Mel Tucker is one of the most respected coaches and recruiters in college football. And now that’s about to get him paid.
Tuckers signature win came two weeks ago when he led the Spartans to a 37-33 come-from-behind victory over in-state archrival Michigan two weeks ago.
A tough 40-29 letdown loss at Purdue followed, but the Spartans bounced back last weekend with a win over Maryland at home to improve to improve to 9-1. That speaks to the resiliency that Tucker has driven home to his players since he was hired in 2020.
With the news of the LSU Tigers parting ways with head coach Ed Orgeron at season’s end, Tucker’s name surfaced as one of the two leading candidates to replace Orgeron, along with fellow Big Ten head coach James Franklin at Penn State. Recent reports say LSU has offered Oklahoma Sooners coach Lincoln Riley $12 million per year for the job in Baton Rouge, but Riley is denying that he’s leaving OU.
The East Lansing school has no intentions of losing their leader of young men.
And the record-breaking deal they offered Tucker shows Michigan State’s commitment to him and his culture change.
Last week it was previously reported on Detroit sports radio that the deal coming was in the $8 million per year range, which still would’ve been a huge increase.
Detroit sports talk radio show host Rico Beard, co-host of the “Mike Valenti Show with Rico Beard,” said this to his listeners on Thursday:
“Mel Tucker’s about to secure the bag. Long-term extension, $6.8 million, with incentives to take him to $8 million. It firmly puts him in the top eight highest-paid coaches. It gets him Ryan Day money. This is not new. They’ve been working on this for weeks.”
Mel Tucker's first public comments on his potential #MichiganState contract extension, via The Draymond Green Show (airing right now):
"I always made it clear that MSU is a destination job, not a stepping stone… It was never my intention to come here and just pass through." pic.twitter.com/121Yx3ZsK6
— SpartanTailgate.com (@SpartanTailgate) November 18, 2021
Beard was definitely onto something, as the school announced Wednesday that they were offering Tucker a 10-year, $95 million extension.
The deal will make him the highest-paid Black coach in American sports. It will also put him atop the highest-paid coach line in the Big Ten surpassing Penn State’s James Franklin.
In fact Tucker’s bag is so big only the “GOAT” Nick Saban, who’s also his former boss and mentor, stands to make more once the ink dries on the new deal.
Saban now has three former assistants on the top 10 highest-paid college coaches list. Tucker, Kirby Smart (Georgia) and Jimbo Fisher (Texas A&M).
You know it’s “Brinks truck”-type dough when only three NFL coaches make more than Tucker now; Bill Belichick, Pete Carroll and Sean Payton.
To put it in further perspective, Tucker’s deal is also more than twice the amount legendary Spartans head basketball coach Tom Izzo pulls in ($3.92 million).
Tucker Is An Ace Recruiter:
Tucker’s biggest strength as a head coach is his ability to recruit, and although his first recruiting class at Michigan State ranked only 42nd nationally, he added pieces of need for his team.
Some of those pieces are transfers that have paid off, and Tucker even has a few true freshmen playing meaningful snaps. Playing freshmen early is a trait Tucker adopted from Saban, who plays more freshmen annually than any coach in the country.
He landed former Wake Forest running back Kenneth Walker III in the transfer portal. KWIII has carried the Spartans’ offense and vaulted into the Heisman race.
Based on current odds, Walker sits right behind the leader, Alabama sophomore quarterback Bryce Young, to take home the prestigious award.
The Spartans’ 2022 recruiting class, which is currently ranked 16th, is already proof of Tucker’s relationship-building prowess.
They should have a handful of those recruits signed, sealed and delivered during the early signing period coming in December.
Mel Tucker’s salary progression over the last eight years is wild. pic.twitter.com/Pqr5wvDzp9
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) November 18, 2021
Tucker motivates at a high level as well, something he’s done at stops in the NFL and college football as a defensive coordinator, and now in his second head coaching stint on the collegiate level. He was the head coach of the Colorado Buffaloes for one season from 2019-20.
Tucker’s Résumé Is Extensive, But Nick Saban’s Influence Was Vital
Tucker began his coaching career as a grad assistant under Nick Saban at Michigan State. He followed that with stints at Ohio State, LSU, and then the NFL for ten years, before returning to the college game.
In his return to the collegiate sidelines he once again landed with Nick Saban, but this time at Alabama.
Tucker was recently asked on ESPN’s “College GameDay” which coach had the biggest influence on him, and he was quick to say Nick Lou Saban.
Tom Izzo called his friend Nick Saban, and Nick Saban told him to have Michigan State interview Mel Tucker. pic.twitter.com/5mBRXW3zry
— Gruff in 2023 (@MSUGruff) October 31, 2021
“I’d probably say Nick Saban,” Tucker replied. “He really laid the foundation for me here at Michigan State. He taught me everything during my career. He’s been a great mentor to me.”
Saban was vital in Michigan State hiring Tucker prior to the 2020 season.
Saban hired Tucker at Michigan State, LSU and Alabama, so one could see why Tucker would speak of Saban so highly.
Tucker Will Be The Highest Paid Black Coach In All Of American Sports:
Tucker is making history, as once he inks his John Hancock he’ll become the highest-paid “melanated” coach in all of American sports. Stanford’s David Shaw is rumored to pull in $8.3 million annually, but because they’re a private institution they’re not required to release that information.
He now tops two “Keystone State” championship-winning head coaches in Pittsburgh Steelers Mike Tomlin and Philadelphia 76ers Doc Rivers who both rake in $8 million big ones annually themselves.
Coach Pop is the only NBA coach with a higher annual salary.
Big Week For Tucker, Just Got Bigger
As Tucker waits for the ink to dry on his new historic mega-deal, his team has some business to tend to in Columbus. The No. 7 Spartans must travel to “The Shoe,” and face the high-powered No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes in a huge Big Ten East Division clash.
Ohio State is an 18.5 point favorite over Michigan State!
Well that's a fun line.
— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) November 18, 2021
The winner controls its own destiny to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship Game and a possible selection to the College Football Playoffs. In 2015, the heavy underdog Spartans shook up the college football world with a stunning 17-14 win over the then-No. 1 defending champion Buckeyes.
That win propelled “Sparty” to the Big Ten title game and subsequent College Football Playoff, where they were blanked by Alabama 38-0.
With more money comes more expectations. Tucker and the Spartans have everything they want right in front of them. Let’s see how they handle it.
The pressure will be on Tucker after his newfound wealth, but from what we’ve witnessed this season he’s up for the challenge.