Mark Dantonio made the surprising decision to step down as head coach at Michigan State just one day ahead of National Signing Day last week. It took a few tries, but today the Spartans got their guy to replace him: former Colorado head coach and Dantonio/Nick Saban assistant Mel Tucker. The hire has officially been announced, and now we have a statement from Dantonio on the hire:
“I first came in contact with Mel when he was the graduate assistant here at Michigan State for Coach Saban. He did an outstanding job with the defensive backs. When I went to Ohio State to work for Coach Tressel, he asked me who should coach the secondary, and I immediately thought of Mel. He was a part of the national championship staff and has gone on to coach at the highest levels of football.
“Mel is charismatic, brings good energy, and is a very forward thinker. He’s also an outstanding recruiter who connected with his players, but also holds them accountable. He’s from the Midwest and has a Spartan background with knowledge of the Big Ten. I’m extremely excited for Mel and his family. I’m looking to support him in any way possible. Go Green!”
Mel Tucker’s first coaching job—a graduate assistant spot—was at Michigan State under Saban, while Dantonio was on staff. As Dantonio says, he suggested hiring Tucker away from Saban and LSU to Ohio State when he took a job under Jim Tressel. From there, Tucker spent 2005-2014 moving through the ranks in the NFL, before returning to college to serve as assistant head coach under Saban at Alabama for one year. Crimson Tide defensive coordinator Kirby Smart brought Tucker with him to Georgia after the 2015 season, and he served as Bulldogs defensive coordinator for three years before taking the head coaching job at Colorado.
What they’re saying about Coach Tucker! pic.twitter.com/m3fwxi8CPq
— Michigan State Football (@MSU_Football) February 12, 2020
After Mark Dantonio’s resignation, Nick Saban served as an advisor to Michigan State’s athletic department, suggesting Tucker, who worked with him at MSU, LSU, and Alabama, to the school.
Tucker initially turned down Michigan State just a few days ago, but the Spartans wound up circling back and reportedly doubling his $2.7 million Colorado salary, and his assistant coaching salary pool.
He was 5-7 in his first year as a head coach at Colorado, though the team definitely showed improvement in some areas from the 2018 team, Mike MacIntyre’s last with the program.