Dennis Dodd misses the mark.
Michigan State is paying a lot with no guarantees. Michigan State was desperate. It has always been a program that punched above its weight. Mark Dantonio had made a reputation coaching up three-stars, developing walk-ons and beating Michigan in eight of 13 meetings.
After the resignation of Dantonio, the Spartans had been turned down by Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell with others like Pittsburgh’s Pat Narduzzi publicly declining interest. That makes Tucker a second choice, at best, and one the Spartans absolutely had to land.
Before taking Colorado, Tucker was regarded as one of the best assistants in the country. His former bosses include Nick Saban, Kirby Smart and Jim Tressel. His resume includes 10 years as an NFL assistant, most as a defensive coordinator.
But we don’t know what kind of head coach he’ll be — not yet, at least. For its $5.4 million, Michigan State is getting a coach who was 5-7 in his debut season at Colorado.
That $5.4 million puts Tucker right outside the top 10 highest-paid list, according to USA Today’s coaching salaries database. He will make more than Northwestern‘s Pat Fitzgerald, largely considered to be one of the country’s best coaches.
Fair? Nothing seems fair in college athletics these days. Michigan State had to overpay.
Was MSU desperate? After Fickell spurned the Spartans, that’s a fair interpretation. Did Michigan State overpay? From Colorado’s point of view, certainly, but MSU got its man and stopped the bleeding at a price it could easily afford to pay. What Dodd is saying is akin to criticizing someone for paying for a Rolex when a $20 Casio could tell time equally well.
The real issue here is that it still hasn’t completely sunk in how much money is flowing into the upper tier of college athletics, with lots more to come. And when you’re a non-profit that has to put the money to some use, well… that’s how Mel Tucker winds up becoming the most fortunate of men.
Perhaps the SEC needs to drop the “it just means more” slogan and adopt something more in sync with the times.