Takeaways: After rush to give Tucker megadeal, MSU slips

Posted 9/24/22

Michigan State blew up the market for college football coaches last season by giving Mel Tucker a massive, 10-year contract as the Spartans charged out to a 9-1 start in his second season as coach. …

This story requires a subscription for $5.99/month.

Already have an account? Log in to continue.

Current print subscribers can create a free account by clicking here.

Otherwise, click here to subscribe.

To Our Valued Readers –

Visitors to our website will be limited to five stories per month unless they opt to subscribe. The five stories do not include our exclusive content written by our journalists.

For $5.99, less than 20 cents a day, digital subscribers will receive unlimited access to YourValley.net, including exclusive content from our newsroom and access to our Daily Independent e-edition.

Our commitment to balanced, fair reporting and local coverage provides insight and perspective not found anywhere else.

Your financial commitment will help to preserve the kind of honest journalism produced by our reporters and editors. We trust you agree that independent journalism is an essential component of our democracy. Please click here to subscribe.

Charlene Bisson, Publisher, Independent Newsmedia

Please log in to continue

Log in
I am anchor

Takeaways: After rush to give Tucker megadeal, MSU slips


Michigan State blew up the market for college football coaches last year by giving Mel Tucker a massive 10-year contract as the Spartans charged out to a 9-1 start in his second season.

It was a bit puzzling at the time.

Tucker's overall record as a head coach was 16-13 at that point, covering not even three full seasons at Colorado and Michigan State, but things looked promising in East Lansing. And there were already rumors that LSU and maybe even some NFL teams were plotting to lure the 50-year-old coach away from the Spartans.

Since that 9-1 start, Michigan State is 4-3, including Saturday's 34-7 loss to Minnesota, a thorough beatdown coming on the heals of a decisive loss last week to Washington.

“I’m really not happy with what I’m seeing,” Tucker told reporters. “I don’t accept it.”

In the long run, Tucker could very well be worth every penny of the fully guaranteed, $95 million deal. It would be way premature to make any definitive judgments. But then again, it was premature to make Tucker one of the highest paid coaches in the country.

The coach-as-savior mentality is rampant in college football. A good coach can have a huge impact on a program, especially after years of incompetence.

Look no further than Kansas for proof. Lance Leipold has the Jayhawks 4-0 for the first time since 2009. The turnaround behind quarterback Jaylon Daniels has been remarkable for a program that hasn't won more than three games in any season since that '09 campaign.

Still, the rush to find and then lock up a great college football coach has given coaches all the leverage and led decision-makers — athletic directors, university presidents, well-heeled boosters — to make highly questionable financial decisions. Tucker's deal is far from the first and maybe not even the most questionable.

Nebraska just paid an extra $7.5 million to make Scott Frost go away a few weeks before his buyout was scheduled to be cut in half. This business is crazy.

The contract Tucker got reshaped the market and made extra-long megadeals the norm for any established and successful coach.

If Tucker was worth it after 16 victories, of course Ryan Day, Jim Harbaugh, James Franklin, Brian Kelly, Dabo Swinney, Kirby Smart, et al, were worth at least that.

Miami is a private school and does not disclose how much it pays its coaches, but it has been mostly assumed the school gave Mario Cristobal a market-rate megadeal to leave Oregon and be the Hurricanes' savior.

Clearly, that's going to take a while.

A week after a lackluster showing at Texas A&M, Middle Tennessee handed the Hurricanes what can reasonably be called one of the worst losses in program history.

We all came here for a purpose and a reason. We’ve got a lot of work to do," Cristobal said.

The Blue Raiders came in 2-1, including a blowout loss to James Madison. They weren't even one of the favorites to win Conference USA.

The cost of a savior has skyrocketed in college football while the chances of actually landing one has never been more fraught with risk.


No, the other one.

Hendon Hooker and No. 11 Tennessee will likely head into October as a top-10 team and maybe the biggest challenger to Georgia in the SEC East.

The Volunteers beat Florida for just the second time in the last 18 seasons, with Hooker putting on what has become a typical show: 349 yards passing, 112 rushing, three total touchdowns.

Nobody pegged Josh Heupel as a savior when he came to Knoxville to replace Jeremy Pruitt after the 2020 season. Heupel was viewed as a safe pick by athletic director Danny White, who took his UCF coach with him to Rocky Top.

The results have been very good so far, but realistically the Vols are probably still a long way from being a threat to Georgia and Alabama in the SEC. See: 453 yards passing by Florida's Anthony Richardson.

As for that other UT, Texas dropped to 2-2, losing at Texas Tech in overtime.


Missouri's overtime loss to Auburn and beleaguered head coach Bryan Harsin will rank among the most painful in school history. After Mizzou's second-team preseason All-America kicker Harrison Mevis missed a potential winning chip shot on the final play of regulation, Tigers running back Nathan Peat let a game-ending TD slip out of his hands about a foot away from the goal line in OT. Whether that allows Harsin to keep his job another week almost seems like a moot point ... America's team, Appalachian State, played yet another bonkers game. This week the Mountaineers blew a 28-3 first-half lead and losing to James Madison. ... It's the full Bo Nix experience for No. 15 Oregon. The Auburn transfer threw a Pick-6 that went 95 yards and helped Washington State to the verge of an upset in the fourth quarter. Nix then led the Ducks on two late scoring drives to keep them undefeated in non-Georgia games ... No. 5 Clemson has now won 10 straight games after a wild overtime victory against No. 21 Wake Forest. The good news for the Tigers is D.J. Uiagalelei played his best game since 2020. The bad news was a defense that was supposed to be Clemson's strength got carved up by Sam Hartman and Co. No. 12 North Carolina State comes to Death Valley next week for another ACC Atlantic showdown. ... How to cure an ailing offense? North Carolina's defense did the trick for Notre Dame.


Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at http://www.appodcasts.com


More AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/ap_top25. Sign up for the AP’s college football newsletter: https://tinyurl.com/mrxhe6f2