Takeaway: After rushing to give Tucker a mega contract, MSU slips


Michigan State coach Mel Tucker watches from the sideline during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Minnesota, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, in East Lansing, Michigan. Minnesota won 34-7. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)


Michigan State blew up the college football coaching market last year by signing Mel Tucker to a whopping 10-year contract as the Spartans started 9-1 in his second season.

It was a bit confusing at the time.

Tucker’s overall record as a head coach was 16-13 at that point, not even covering three full seasons at Colorado and Michigan State, but things were looking promising at East Lansing. And there were already rumors that LSU and possibly 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 complete loss following a game-breaking loss last week against Washington.

“I’m really not happy with what I see,” 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 premature to pass a final judgement. But again, it was premature to make Tucker one of the highest paid coaches in the country.

The coach-savior mentality is endemic 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 was notable for a program that hasn’t won more than three games in a season since that 2009 campaign.

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

Nebraska just paid an extra $7.5 million to fire Scott Frost weeks before his buyout was cut in half. This company is crazy.

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

If Tucker was worth it after 16 wins, 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 doesn’t disclose how much it pays its coaches, but it was mostly speculated that the school gave Mario Cristobal a market-rate mega-deal to leave Oregon and be the Hurricanes’ savior.

It is clear that it will take time.

A week after a lackluster performance 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 have 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 among the favorites to win Conference USA.

“It was a kick in the ass,” MTSU coach Rick Stockstill said. “We were the toughest team.”

The cost of a savior has skyrocketed in college football as the odds of landing one have never been so dicey.


No, the other.

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

The Volunteers beat Florida for only the second time in the past 18 seasons, with Hooker putting up what has become a typical spectacle: 349 passing yards, 112 rushing, three total touchdowns.

No one saw Josh Heupel as a savior when he came to Knoxville to replace Jeremy Pruitt after the 2020 season. Heupel was seen as a safe choice 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 far from being a threat to Georgia and Alabama in the SEC. See: 453 passing yards by Florida’s Anthony Richardson.

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


A week after losing to Tulane, Kansas State beat No. 6 Oklahoma for the third time in four tries since coach Chris Klieman took over in Manhattan. Freed from dysfunctional Nebraska, quarterback Adrian Martinez was brilliant for the Wildcats with five touchdowns… Missouri’s overtime loss to Auburn and beleaguered head coach Bryan Harsin will rank among the most painful in Wildcats history. school. After Mizzou’s second-team preseason All-America kicker Harrison Mevis missed a potentially game-winning chip shot in the final play of regulation, Tigers running back Nathan Peat dropped a late TD of match slipping out of his hands about a foot from the goal line in OT. Whether that will allow Harsin to keep his job for another week almost seems like a moot point… Team USA, Appalachian State, played yet another bonkers game. This week, the Mountaineers blew a 28-3 first half lead and lost to James Madison. … Since losing to App State, the No. 23 Texas A&M has won two straight. Offense other than Devon Achane still isn’t very exciting for the Aggies, but it was enough to beat Arkansas’ No. 10. … That’s the full Bo Nix experience for Oregon’s No. 15. Auburn’s transfer threw a Pick-6 that went 95 yards and helped Washington State edge to a fourth quarter upset. Nix then led the Ducks on two late goals to keep them undefeated in games away from Georgia… No. 5 Clemson has now won 10 straight after a wild overtime win over No. 21 Wake Forest. The good news for the Tigers is that DJ Uiagalelei played his best game since 2020. The bad news was that a defense that was supposed to be Clemson’s strength was cut by Sam Hartman and Co. No. 12 North Carolina State arrives to Death Valley next week for another ACC Atlantic showdown. … How to cure a sick offense? The North Carolina defense did the trick for Notre Dame.


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This story was originally published September 24, 2022 8:24 p.m.