Michigan State awards Mel Tucker a $95 million 10-year deal
Michigan State is awarding Mel Tucker a $95 million 10-year contract, making a strong move to keep a football coach likely to leave for LSU or the NFL.
“I am honored to be a part of Operation Spartan today and for years to come,” Tucker Wed wrote in a Twitter post.
The 12th-seeded Spartans (9-2, 6-2 Big Ten) closed out the regular season against Penn State (7-4, 4-4) on Saturday at home.
Tucker’s contract establishes him one of the fortunes coaches in college football.
Only Nick Saban of Alabama, one of his mentors, who earns $9,753,221 a year, gets paid more annually, according to USA Today’s coaches salary database.
Tucker’s 10-year deal puts him in a select company with two coaches of the same term: Clemson Dabo Sweeney and Jimbo Fisher of Texas A&M. Swinney’s contract is worth $92 million and the Fisher deal will pay him more than $9 million annually, starting in 2022.
Tucker’s deal, which expires January 15, 2032, will get him $5.9 million in base salary, $3.2 million in supplemental media and personal appearances compensation plus a $400,000 emergency annual bonus.
“We’re excited to have a mile here for the next 10 years,” Matt Ishbea, president and CEO of United Mortgage, one of the donors funding Tucker’s new deal, told The Associated Press in a phone interview. “He’s a winner. He represents Michigan in a great way and we’re excited for the future.
“We got a winner and didn’t let the winner leave Michigan State. Mel didn’t want to leave, but the truth is he’s the hottest name in football.”
The 49-year-old is getting a salary boost as part of a long-term deal because of what he’s done so far, and what happened in the past in Michigan.
After winning just two games in his first appearance during the brief pandemic season, Tucker captained one of college’s most surprising football teams. The Spartans started the season without a standings and now have a chance to win 10 matches and earn a spot in the New Year’s Six Bow.
Ohio State No. 2 showed Tucker’s team how far they should go in last week’s 56-7 win that ended the Spartans’ championship hopes.
Michigan State was so excited to give Tucker every reason to stay after Saban’s loss to LSU in November 1999.
“There was a time Michigan State had the best football and basketball coach with Nick Saban and Tom Izu. Now, we have a chance to have the best coaching duo in America and we’re going to push a mile like he left,” Ishbia told The Associated Press.
Tucker was Michigan State’s alumni assistant at Saban during the 1997 and 1978 seasons, when he earned $400 a week and slept under a desk hoping the head coach would be impressed by his dedication.
Even before the championship-caliber program in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, announced its split from Ed Orgeron earlier this season, Tucker was mentioned as a candidate in part because he coached the Tigers defensive linebacker under Saban in 2000 and has an impressive résumé with assignments on staff at the state Ohio and Georgia.
Tucker’s ties to the NFL have also made it likely that teams with league coaching openers will try to keep him away this winter. Tucker was a decade ago 2-3 as interim coach at Jacksonville, where he was the defensive coordinator, a role he also played for his hometown Cleveland Browns and Chicago during his 10 seasons on the sidelines of the NFL.
While keeping an innovator in Michigan would cost a lot of money, the pay increase is offered as a gift from Ishbia and Steve St. Andre.
Ishbea was a guard on Tom Izu’s 2000 National Championship basketball team. Earlier this year, Ishbea donated $32 million to Michigan State athletics, giving $500 a month to the school’s men’s soccer and basketball players. Saint Andre is the founder and CEO of Shift Digital, a marketing company.
“This is a process of building a program that wins the championship,” Tucker said.
After coach Mark D’Antonio retired in February 2020, Tucker more than doubled his gross pay by leaving Colorado after just one season with a record 5-7 to sign a six-year deal worth $5.5 million annually at Michigan State.
Tucker didn’t have much time with his new team last year before the pandemic drove players away from campus and showed the record 2-5.
With transfers flowing, including candidate Heisman Trophy dropping Kenneth Walker, the Spartans won their first eight games of the season, including their second straight win over rival Michigan.
“The decision to extend Mel Tucker’s contract is not based on one year of results, but rather an investment in the promising future of Spartan football,” said sporting director Alan Haller.
Whether the season ended with success or setbacks, the school and its fans should not have to worry about losing their coach.
Ishbia told The Associated Press, “Michigan isn’t a starting point, it’s a destination, and Mel knows that. He didn’t want to leave, but when someone is everywhere and they’re loyal, you take care of them.”
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