Michigan State hires Colorado's Mel Tucker to replace Mark Dantonio

Though he initially turned down interest in the job, Mel Tucker is headed to Michigan State after all. (Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

After turning down initial interest, Colorado coach Mel Tucker is headed to East Lansing after all.

Tucker and Michigan State agreed to a deal in principal to make him the program’s next football coach, The Athletic first reported late on Tuesday night. Colorado confirmed Wednesday morning that Tucker is leaving Boulder with MSU later formally announcing Tucker’s hire.

“It is a blessing and honor to return to Michigan State University where I began my coaching career with Nick Saban,” Tucker said. “Thank you to President Stanley, Athletic Director Beekman and the Board of Trustees for the trust that you have placed in me to lead one of the finest football programs in the nation.”

The deal with MSU will reportedly more than double the salary Tucker was making at Colorado, double his salary pool for assistant coaches and include a “substantial increase” to the strength and conditioning staff budget and program resources. 

Tucker initially turned MSU down

Tucker was one of several people to turn down the job in a lengthy coaching search, along with San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, Iowa State coach Matt Campbell and Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell, among others. Tucker even tweeted out on Saturday that he was “committed to [Colorado] for #TheBuild of our program.”

According to The Athletic, however, Michigan State “circled back” to Tucker on Monday with an offer for him and the program “that he felt he needed to compete for national titles.”

“Returning home to Michigan State is a once in a lifetime opportunity for me and my family but it created the toughest decision of my life – to leave Colorado. There is no way to fully express my gratitude to the Buffalo student-athletes, (Colorado AD) Rick George, and our staff. I am incredibly thankful for our time together and I will always believe in Colorado football,” Tucker said.

Tucker has one year of head coaching experience

Tucker had just finished his first season at Colorado and posted a 5-7 record. He had served as the defensive coordinator at Georgia for three seasons before taking the job in Boulder.

“We are disappointed to see Coach Tucker leave,” George said. “We are excited about the upward trajectory of our football program and we’ll get to work immediately hiring the next head coach to build on our momentum and lead our young men. We’re confident this program is on the verge of competing at the highest level and has the resources and support in place to do so for a long time.”

The 48-year-old Tucker worked as a graduate assistant at Michigan State in 1997 and 1998, too, and spent four seasons as the defensive backs coach and co-defensive coordinator at Ohio State from 2001-2004.

Tucker will replace longtime coach Mark Dantonio, who stepped down earlier this month after 13 seasons with the program. He compiled a 114-57 record with the Spartans, and led them to a win against Wake Forest in the Pinstripe Bowl to end the 2019 season.

“It brings me great pleasure to welcome Mel Tucker to the Spartan family as the 25th head coach in Michigan State football history,” Beekman said. “It's fitting that Mel returns to the place where his coaching career began as a graduate assistant. While he returns to Michigan State with a loftier title, his passion is every bit as fierce. Head football coach might be his title, but he will be an amazing ambassador for our department, our university and more than 550,000 living alums.”

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