Michigan State gives Mel Tucker 10-year, $95 million deal

Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK
2 Comments

Michigan State is giving Mel Tucker a 10-year, $95 million contract, making an aggressive move to keep a football coach who potentially could have left for LSU or the NFL.

“I am honored to be a part of the Spartan process today, and for years to come,” Tucker wrote in a post on Twitter.

The 12th-ranked Spartans (9-2, 6-2 Big Ten) close the regular season against Penn State (7-4, 4-4) on Saturday at home.

Tucker’s contract establishes him as one of the riches coaches in college football.

Only Alabama’s Nick Saban, one of his mentors, who makes $9,753,221 a year, is paid more on an annual basis, according to the USA Today coaches’ salaries database.

Tucker’s 10-year deal puts him in select company with two coaches with the same term: Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher. Swinney’s contract is worth $92 million and Fisher’s deal will pay him more than $9 plus million a year, starting in 2022.

Tucker’s deal that expires Jan. 15, 2032, will have a $5.9 million base salary, $3.2 million in supplemental compensation for media and personal appearances along with a $400,000 contingent annual bonus.

“We’re excited to have Mel here for the next 10 years,” United Wholesale Mortgage president and CEO Mat Ishbia, one of the donors funding Tucker’s new deal, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. “He’s a winner. He represents Michigan State in a fantastic way and we’re excited for the future.

“We got a winner and we’re not letting a winner leave Michigan State. Mel didn’t want to leave, but the reality is he’s the hottest name in football.”

The 49-year-old Tucker is getting a boost in pay as part of a long-term deal because of what he has done so far, and what has happened in the past at Michigan State.

After winning just two games in his debut during the pandemic-shortened season, Tucker has led one of college football’s most surprising teams. The Spartans started the season unranked and overlooked and now have a chance to win 10 games and earn a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl game.

No. 2 Ohio State did show Tucker’s team how far it has to go in last week’s 56-7 win that ended the Spartans’ championship hopes.

Michigan State was very motivated to give Tucker every reason to stay after losing Saban to LSU in November 1999.

“There was a time Michigan State had the best football and basketball coach with Nick Saban and Tom Izzo,” Ishbia told the AP. “Now, we have a chance to have the best coaching duo again in America and we’re going to pay Mel like he left.”

Tucker was a graduate assistant at Michigan State for Saban during the 1997 and 1998 seasons, when he made $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 it was parting ways with Ed Orgeron earlier this season, Tucker was mentioned as a candidate in part because he coached the Tigers’ defensive backs under Saban in 2000 and has an impressive resume with stints on staffs at Ohio State and Georgia.

Tucker’s ties to the NFL also made it likely that pro teams with coaching openings would try to pry him away this winter. Tucker was 2-3 a decade ago as an interim coach in Jacksonville, where he was defensive coordinator, a role he also had with his hometown Cleveland Browns and Chicago over his 10 seasons on NFL sidelines.

While it is going to cost a lot of money to keep Tucker at Michigan State, the boost in pay is being provided as a gift from Ishbia and Steve St. Andre.

Ishbia was a walk-on guard on Izzo’s 2000 national championship basketball team. Earlier this year, Ishbia made a $32 million donation for Michigan State’s athletics and he is giving $500 a month to the school’s football and men’s basketball players. St. Andre is the founder and CEO of Shift Digital, a marketing company.

Tucker thanked both donors by name in his Twitter post along with former Michigan State football players Brian Mosallam and Jason Strayhorn for their help with finalizing the new contract.

“This is a process to build a championship-winning program,” Tucker said.

After coach Mark Dantonio retired in February 2020, Tucker more than doubled his total compensation by leaving Colorado after only one season with a 5-7 record to sign a six-year deal worth $5.5-plus million per year at Michigan State.

Tucker didn’t have much time with his new team last year before the pandemic pushed players away from campus, and it showed with a 2-5 record.

With an influx of transfers, including Heisman Trophy-candidate running back Kenneth Walker, the Spartans won their first eight games this season, including a second straight win over rival Michigan.

“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,” athletic director Alan Haller said.

Whether the season ends with successes or setbacks, the school and its fans should not have to worry about losing their coach.

“Michigan State is not a stepping stone, it’s a destination, and Mel knows that,” Ishbia said. “He didn’t want to leave, but when someone is all in and they’re loyal, you take care of them.”

No. 2 Michigan beats Purdue 43-22 for Big Ten crown

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

INDIANAPOLIS – Donovan Edwards ran for 185 yards and a score, J.J. McCarthy threw three touchdown passes and No. 2 Michigan beat Purdue 43-22 on Saturday night for its second straight Big Ten title and a likely No. 2 playoff seed.

College football’s winningest program has the first 13-win season in school history. Two more victories would give the Wolverines (13-0, No. 2 CFP) their first national championship since 1997.

And with injured star Blake Corum sidelined by a season-ending left knee injury, Edwards stole the show for the second straight week.

After shredding rival Ohio State for 216 yards and two scores last week, Edwards broke open this game with a 60-yard on the first play of the second half to set up one score. He added a 27-yard TD sprint on Michigan’s next series to make it 28-13.

Purdue (8-5) never recovered from Michigan’s quick, seven-play onslaught after it trailed 14-13 at halftime.

But quarterback Aidan O'Connell and receiver Charlie Jones helped the Boilermakers make it interesting for a while.

O’Connell was 32 of 47 with 366 yards and two interceptions after missing some practice time early this week to mourn the death of his oldest brother. Jones, who lost to Michigan in last year’s game while playing for Iowa, had 13 receptions for 162 yards.

It just wasn’t enough.

Michigan showed no signs of a hangover after last week’s rout over the Buckeyes, taking a 7-0 lead on its opening possession with a 25-yard TD pass from J.J. McCarthy to Colston Loveland.

Purdue answered with Devin Mockobee’s 1-yard scoring run to tie the score then took the lead on Mitchell Fineran’s 33-yard field goal.

Michigan answered by taking advantage of an offside call on fourth-and-6 by going for the first down, picking it up and eventually converting the drive into a 7-yard TD pass from McCarthy to Luke Schoonmaker. They never trailed again.

Edwards big run set up Kalel Mullings‘ 1-yard TD plunge before Edwards celebrated his own scoring run.

All Purdue could muster was three more field goals.

McCarthy was 11 of 17 with 161 yards and one interception.

Corum posted a message on Twitter on Saturday morning to say his knee surgery went well.

THE TAKEAWAY

Purdue: The Boilermakers’ magical season ended with a solid showing in the championship game where they played better than most expected. Still, they won the Big Ten’s wild, wild West, both trophy games and should be bound for a warm-weather bowl game.

Michigan: Yes, the Wolverines may have already locked up a top-two seed thanks to losses by Southern Cal and TCU. Michigan now has back-to-back conference crowns for the first time since 2003-04 though the hard part remains – ending its national title drought.

DIALING UP TRICKERY

Brohm played one season in the now defunct XFL and has acknowledged that experience helped him understand how to inject personality and creativity into play calling. It was on full display Saturday.

A surprise end around set up Purdue’s first score, a fake punt helped keep its second scoring drive alive and then Mockobee sprinted 25 yards on a fake flea-flicker in the third quarter.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Will find out its bowl game, destination and opponent Sunday.

Michigan: Waiting to see where its headed and who it will face in the national semifinals.

Klubnik, No. 10 Clemson rout No. 24 UNC 39-10 for ACC title

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Backup quarterback Cade Klubnik completed 20 of 24 passes for 279 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score and No. 10 Clemson reclaimed the Atlantic Coast Conference championship with a 39-10 victory over No. 24 North Carolina on Saturday night.

Cornerback Nate Wiggins broke up two passes in the end zone, blocked a field goal and returned an interception 98 yards for a touchdown to help the Tigers win their seventh ACC title in eight seasons.

Clemson (11-2, No. 9 CFP) won six straight ACC championships from 2015 to 2020 before failing to reach the title game last season. But coach Dabo Swinney‘s Tigers rebounded in a big way, going 9-0 against ACC foes this season to reach the Orange Bowl.

They have Klubnik to thank for that.

With Clemson down 7-0, Swinney benched two-year starter D.J. Uiagalelei after the Tigers failed to pick up a first down on their first two possessions, Swinney turned to Klubnik, a 5-star recruit from Austin, Texas. He responded by leading the Tigers to four straight scores and a 24-10 lead at halftime.

Clemson stretched it to 39-10 heading into the fourth quarter.

It wasn’t the first time Swinney has turned to Klubnik.

He benched Uiagalelei in the second half against Syracuse and Klubnik responded by leading the Tigers to a come-from-behind 27-21 victory. Swinney also turned to Klubnik against Notre Dame, although the results were the opposite with the freshman throwing a Pick 6 in a 35-14 loss.

Swinney has never been shy about replacing veteran QBs with less experienced players. He did it in 2014, sitting Cole Stoudt for Deshaun Watson, and again in 2018 replacing Kelly Bryant with Trevor Lawrence.

ACC player of the year Drake Maye was limited to 268 yards passing and turned the ball over three times for North Carolina (9-4, No. 23 CFP), which was seeking its first ACC championship since 1980 when Lawrence Taylor was wreaking havoc on quarterbacks.

Maye got things started on the right foot for the Tar Heels, capping an 11-play, 78-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead on UNC’s first possession.

But the Tar Heels repeatedly sputtered on offense inside the red zone after that, the biggest blow coming when Maye misfired near the goal line and Wiggins – who had struggled in Clemson’s 51-45 win over Wake Forest – returned his pass for a touchdown to give Clemson a 32-10 lead with 5:05 left in the third quarter.

Klubnik provided an immediate spark for Clemson.

He led the Tigers on a nine-play, 71-yard drive, culminating in a 1-yard TD pass to Davis Allen. After Maye’s fumble, Klubnik caught a 19-yard pass from Phil Mafah to set up Mafah’s 4-yard touchdown run – Clemson’s second TD in a span of 40 seconds.

Klubnik then showed off his arm strength with a 68-yard pass to fellow freshman Cole Turner to set up his own 1-yard TD run for a 21-7 lead.

END OF AN ERA

This is the final year the ACC will feature its two division winners playing for a championship. In future years, all ACC teams will be lumped together and the two teams with the best records will advance to the title game.

THE TAKEAWAY

North Carolina: Maye garnered plenty of Heisman Trophy talk during the season, but the Tar Heels offense has stalled resulting in a three-game losing streak. But as long as Maye doesn’t transfer – and there are no indications he will given his family history at North Carolina – the Tar Heels have a good chance to get back to the ACC title game next season.

Clemson: The Tigers have set a high bar by winning national championships, so as much as they will enjoy getting back atop the ACC mountain there will be plenty of talk over whether Swinney cost his team a chance at a spot in the College Football Playoff by not turning to Klubnik at quarterback earlier in the season. It seems Uiagalelei might be a logical transfer portal candidate.

UP NEXT

Clemson will play in the Orange Bowl, while North Carolina awaits a bowl bid.