Michigan State football makes Mel Tucker's gigantic new contract official
Michigan State football coach Mel Tucker signed his gigantic contract extension, the school announced late Wednesday. The deal is pending approval from the university's Board of Trustees. Chairperson Dianne Byrum said in a statement released by the school that the Board "fully supports a new contract for Coach Tucker."
The Free Press reported the two parties were nearing agreement on a 10-year, $95 million contract on Nov. 17. He is expected to become among the highest paid coaches in the sport. Alumni Mat Ishbia and Steve St. Andre are donating the money for Tucker's raise, though official contract details have not yet been released.
The school announced that Tucker will make $9.5 million in "non-performance related compensation," which including a $5.9 million base salary, $3.2 million for media and personal appearances and a $400,000 contingent annual bonus. The new deal ends on Jan. 15, 2032.
Details on a buyout and what bonuses exist for winning the Big Ten or making the College Football Playoff were not disclosed.
"Every day I wake up feeling humbled to be the Head Football Coach at Michigan State. It is my privilege to work alongside our student-athletes, coaches and staff who embody our culture of hard work, discipline, and excellence — on and off the field," Tucker said in a statement provided to the Free Press. "Thank you to our Board of Trustees, President (Samuel) Stanley and our administration, (athletic director) Alan Haller and the athletics staff, our incredible donors and fans — and of course Coach (Tom) Izzo for the support and resources you provide MSU to build Spartan football — we could not do it without you.
"The mentorship and friendship of Mat Ishbia, Steve St. Andre, Brian Mosallam and Jason Strayhorn — particularly during this process — has been invaluable to me. It is a process to build a championship-winning program. A process that drives us to be better. A process that demands relentless soul and grit. And a process that requires support from Spartans across the globe.
"I am honored to be a part of the Spartan process today, and for years to come."
Ishbia, a walk-on member of the Spartans’ 2000 national championship basketball team and a 2003 graduate of MSU’s Eli Broad College of Business, is chairman, president and CEO of United Wholesale Mortgage, which went public in January. The 41-year-old also made a $32 million cash donation in February to help construct a new football facility.
St. Andre is the founder of Shift Digital, a marketing firm that creates websites and other digital tools for auto dealerships, automotive manufacturers and other clients. The 49-year-old MSU marketing graduate previously worked for eight years as president and CEO of Ford Direct and was part of the startup team that created FordDirect.com.
Mosallam is both a former MSU football player and trustee, and Strayhorn also is a former Spartan player, the current analyst on team radio broadcasts and member of the State Board of Education.
"This is a special moment for Spartan Nation," Mosallam said Wednesday night. "All the credit goes to Mat Ishbia and Steve St. Andre. They built their companies by identifying and attracting talent. I’m honored to be considered a friend of theirs. Mel Tucker will build a behemoth here. I know what he’s made of. I will get in a bunker with him any day."
Tucker has the No. 13-ranked Spartans at 9-2, 6-2 in the Big Ten, after they were picked to finish last in the East Division before the season. They host Penn State on Saturday in the regular-season finale at Spartan Stadium (3:30 p.m., ABC).
“Mel Tucker has been an outstanding addition to our Spartan Athletic program,” Stanley said in the released statement. “In less than two years, his leadership has already resulted in a program competing for top honors, and I’m impressed by his intensity and drive. Spartan fans around the country are enjoying the success of this year’s football program and we look forward to many more successful seasons, competing at the highest levels under Coach Tucker.”
The contract was expected to make Tucker the highest-paid Black coach in America and the top in the Big Ten. The Nittany Lions on Tuesday agreed to a 10-year extension with coach James Franklin that reportedly is worth $7 million per season in total guaranteed annual compensation, an annual $500,000 retention bonus and a $1 million annual loan for life insurance, according to PennLive.com.
Tucker's name came up in LSU and USC coaching rumors over the past month, likely playing a factor in the new contract happening in Year 2 on the job.
Izzo, who said in 2020 that a football coach is the most important hire in the athletic department MSU can make, expressed his pleasure over the extention via statement Wednesday night:
“Some of the greatest success we’ve had as a basketball program at Michigan State has come when the football team has experienced its own success. Simply put, when football is successful, it makes our entire department better — it helps recruiting, it benefits fundraising, everyone just has more Spartan pride.
"There’s no question that Mel and his team are having a great season. It’s been fun, not only to watch them play, but also to talk to the team when Mel’s invited me to do so. It’s very apparent something special is happening in the football building and I’m excited to be a part of it.
"In Mel, I think we have a driven, no-nonsense coach who I’m happy will be around us for the next 10 years. We have recruited, fundraised and are building a friendship which I think will help Michigan State be in a position to be one of the premier programs in the country."
Tucker, who played at Wisconsin as a defensive back in the early 1990s and started his coaching career in 1997 at MSU under Saban, has quickly rebuilt the program after it fell stale in the final years under former coach Mark Dantonio, who retired suddenly in February 2020. A week later, and after MSU struck out on front-runner Luke Fickell, Tucker was whisked away from Colorado after a debut season of 5-7.
Tucker's coaching resume includes national championships as an assistant at Ohio State (2003) and Alabama (2015), and 10 years of NFL experience, including a 2–3 mark as interim head coach with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2011.
One month into Tucker's new job at MSU in 2020, COVID-19 hit, derailing his attempts to establish himself at his new program. In October, MSU lost its opener in an ugly seven-turnover game vs. Rutgers, but a week later went to No. 14 Michigan as more than three-touchdown underdogs and pulled off one of the biggest upsets in rivalry history. MSU also knocked off No. 13 Northwestern, but finished the season 2-5.
Then, in his first normal offseason, Tucker dipped heavily into the transfer portal to rebuild the Spartans, bringing in numerous contributors, most notably likely Heisman Trophy candidate Kenneth Walker III.
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MSU's season began as good as it could have, with Walker scoring from 75 yards out on the season's first play at Northwestern, as the Spartans racked up impressive wins and some not-so-impressive wins en route to a 7-0 start and a date with undefeated Michigan on Oct. 30.
Again as underdogs, the Spartans rallied from 16 points down in an instant classic to defeat Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines, 37-33.
The next week, MSU was steamrolled by Purdue, and two weeks later was trounced as a three-touchdown underdog by Ohio State.
“The decision to extend Mel Tucker’s contract is not based on one year of results, but rather it’s an investment in a promising future for Spartan football,” Haller said in the statement. “Since his hire in February 2020, the program has experienced high levels of success in three key areas: student-athlete development - on and off the field, recruiting momentum and donor and alumni base engagement and support. Mel has brought an energy to this program which has benefitted not only our athletic department, but also the university and the surrounding community.”
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