Mel Tucker’s contract: Michigan State takes the risk of overpaying its trainer in hopes of increasing the importance of the program


Mel Tucker is overpaid. Man himself must admit it. Before ending his third season as a head coach – his second at Michigan State – Tucker is now the second-highest-paid coach in the game.

Nick Saban is No.1, and some suggest the only similarities between the two are their contracts and the fact that Tucker once worked for the Alabama big coach. Now they can buy their own Mercedes dealers. Wait, Saban already has six, the same number of championships he won in Alabama.

It’s an indicator that Tucker has some catching up to do, you know, in the field where these big contracts are supposed to be won. In case you haven’t noticed in the coaching profession, the salary often exceeds the achievements.

The reaction to Tucker’s contract in the varsity track community is somewhere between floored and stunned. Tucker will collect $ 95 million from the state of Michigan over the next 10 years.

Good for him, but at least Bobby Bowden had won a national championship when he became the first $ 1 million coach in 1995. So did Steve Spurrier when he became the first $ 2 million coach a year older late.

Tucker is 16-14 as a head coach in his career. Just 21 months ago, he left Colorado after a season in which he was 5-7. His greatest accomplishment at Spartyland is being the first Michigan State coach to go 2-0 against Michigan right out of the box while having his program competing for a Big Ten title and a spot for the college football qualifiers until November.

He signed his overtime Wednesday after losing two of his last three games, to Purdue by 11 (MSU entered as the favorite) and Ohio State by … 49.

For a while, Tucker’s running back Kenneth Walker III was the Heisman Trophy favorite. Walker is expected to win the Doak Walker Award (best running back).

His trainer can probably afford a really fancy note card to congratulate him.

We can make jokes about wacky coach salaries, but this one is wacky-ish. With the contract, the boosters who funded it tell the world that this effort goes beyond winning championships. It’s about becoming Michigan. No, the state of Ohio. No, it’s about becoming Alabama.

For the state of Michigan, that is the price of (attempting) greatness. Tucker is qualified. The man has a long resume that includes experience in the NFL, Big Ten chops and as a defensive coordinator under Saban and Kirby Smart.

Michigan’s turnaround this season has been remarkable.

But is he a $ 95 million coach? We will find out.

This whirlwind of extensions is also our American market place at work. The demand for good coaches exceeds the supply. So you see inflation. There have been five coaches who signed 10-year contracts this year, three in the past three weeks – Tucker, Jeff Traylor of UTSA and James Franklin of Penn State.

“Shortage of elite coaches for those at the top echelon,” explained a sports director from Power Five as the reason for these agreements. “Therefore, if you have a guy who you believe in, lock him up. Otherwise, researching that market is a losing situation.”

In other words, all coaches are pushed to the point that Dave Aranda (less than two years of experience as a head coach) is a popular name at both LSU and USC. Nothing against Aranda, who looks like the next coaching superstar, but not so quietly, what was once a two-year extension has turned into a 10-year extension.

“Schools are ready to enter into longer term contracts if they feel they have the right head coach in place,” said Liberty AD Ian McCaw. “Traditionally, these were four and five year contracts. Now you see seven, eight, even 10 year contracts.”

McCaw extended Hugh Freeze by two years this week until 2028, but at an average of over $ 4 million a year. That would be equal to or close to the highest annual salary for a non-Power Five trainer.

Is it fiscally responsible or is that none of our business?

Saban is one of the few coaches in the country to earn his monster dollars. Its success has helped increase enrollment, modernize campus facilities, and improve Alabama’s academic profile.

Kirk Ferentz of Iowa got a bonus of $ 500,000 for winning his eighth Game. There are those who have pointed out that Franklin has gone 11-9 in the past two years and has a Big Ten title in eight seasons. Now he earns $ 7.5 million a year and an additional $ 1 million in life insurance loans.

These observations are correct. It’s also fair to say that the Land Grant trophy that goes to the winner of Saturday’s game between Michigan State and Penn State should be sponsored by Rocket Mortgage. The two sports departments could stake their futures on combined 20-year contracts worth $ 170 million.

We should stop here and applaud the fact that Tucker has become the highest paid black coach of all time in American sport. He overtakes Stanford coach David Shaw.

In the negotiating trenches, Agent Neil Cornrich has worked his magic. Tucker’s agent clearly knows the market. There wasn’t even an opening at Michigan State, and he blew the lid off. Tucker’s name had appeared at LSU. He allegedly interviewed at one point, according to sources at CBS Sports. Maybe that was all Cornrich needed leverage, the idea of ​​an interview.

A lot of coaches are overpaid, almost all head coaches at the Power Five level. When you earn (a lot) more than the president of the school, it raises questions about the priorities of an institution. But we passed that mile marker about 50 years ago. Nobody blinked then. Why start now?

Maybe it’s because Tucker is Following overpaid that most.

Again, he would probably admit it, but like Bill Parcells once said, you are worth what someone will pay you.

Tucker is worth a lot. Only the number of zeros quantifies the outrage that exists. Critics jumped at Knute Rockne’s throat when he won $ 75,000 at the time of his death in 1931. In today’s money, that would equate to $ 1.2 million.

Tucker earns eight times as much. How times have changed – or stayed the same.

Legend has it that Bear Bryant left Kentucky for Alabama because he got a lighter a year while Kentucky basketball coach Adolph Rupp got a Cadillac for his accomplishments.

What club Tucker joined. Now comes the hard part: winning.

Paid boosters who fund this contract will expect championships. They won’t be alone. The state of Michigan can no longer hide as Little Brother in picturesque East Lansing, Michigan. This kind of money deceives swagger and excellence.

First of all, you have to win championships – beating Michigan not just next year but every year. It’s a good start. Becoming Alabama is the ultimate expectation.

For now, Walker can look forward to this truly impressive note card.