Mel Tucker
Tucker with Georgia in 2017
Biographical details
Born (1972-01-04) January 4, 1972 (age 52)
Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.
Playing career
1990–1992, 1994Wisconsin
Position(s)Defensive back
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1997–1998Michigan State (GA)
1999Miami (OH) (DB)
2000LSU (DB)
2001–2003Ohio State (DB)
2004Ohio State (co-DC)
2005–2007Cleveland Browns (DB)
2008Cleveland Browns (DC)
2009–2011Jacksonville Jaguars (DC)
2011Jacksonville Jaguars (interim)
2012Jacksonville Jaguars (AHC/DC)
2013–2014Chicago Bears (DC)
2015Alabama (AHC/DB)
2016–2018Georgia (DC/DB)
2019Colorado
2020–2023Michigan State
Head coaching record
Overall25–21 (college)
2–3 (NFL)
Bowls1–0
Accomplishments and honors
Awards
2016 College Football Playoff National Championship

Melvin Gene Tucker II[1] (born January 4, 1972) is an American football coach and former player. He was the head football coach at Michigan State University from 2020 to 2023.

Tucker was the interim head coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars of the National Football League (NFL) for the final five games of the 2011 season. He has worked as the defensive backs coach at Ohio State and Alabama and as the defensive coordinator for both the Chicago Bears of the NFL and the University of Georgia.[2][3]

In November 2021, Mel Tucker became one of the highest-paid coaches in college football history, receiving a guaranteed 10-year, $95 million contract from Michigan State, the third-largest contract ever given to a football coach at a public university.[4] In September 2023, following allegations of sexual harassment, Tucker was fired by Michigan State.[5][6]

Early life

Tucker was born in Cleveland, Ohio.[7] He attended Cleveland Heights High School where he was a football standout. He then attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where he played defensive back for the Wisconsin Badgers football team. He graduated in 1995 with a degree in agricultural business management.[8] He signed a contract with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League after graduation but fell ill during training camp due to chickenpox and was cut from the team. [9]

Coaching career

NCAA

Tucker began his coaching career in 1997 as a graduate assistant for Michigan State under head coach Nick Saban.[10] In 1999, he served as a defensive backs coach for the Miami University Redhawks and then in 2000 followed Saban to Louisiana State University to fill the same position with the LSU Tigers. In 2001, he became defensive backs coach for Ohio State under coach Jim Tressel. In 2002, Tucker was the defensive backs coach as Ohio State won a national championship, and in 2004 he was made co-defensive coordinator.[8]

NFL

In 2005, Tucker entered the National Football League (NFL) with the Cleveland Browns. He coached defensive backs from 2005 to 2007 and was promoted to defensive coordinator in the 2008 season following the firing of Todd Grantham.[11][12] Under Tucker, Cleveland consistently ranked fifth in the league, with the defense making 73 interceptions.[8] After the firing of Browns' head coach Romeo Crennel, Tucker was replaced by Rob Ryan.[13]

In 2009, Tucker was hired by the Jacksonville Jaguars as their defensive coordinator, replacing Gregg Williams.[14] In the 2011 season, head coach Jack Del Rio put Tucker in charge of defensive play-calling, and the team quickly became the fourth highest rated in the NFL.[15][16] On November 29, 2011, Tucker was named Jacksonville's interim head coach following the firing of Del Rio. He coached the final five games of the season, posting a 2–3 record. His first win as a head coach on week 14, a 41–14 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.[17] Jacksonville hired Atlanta Falcons' offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey as the new permanent head coach; Mularkey retained Tucker as defensive coordinator with the additional title of assistant head coach.[18]

On January 18, 2013, Tucker was named defensive coordinator of the Chicago Bears.[19] Following one of the worst defensive seasons in Bears' history in 2013, Tucker was criticized by the media.[20] As a result, the team fired two of Tucker's assistant coaches, linebackers coach Tim Tibesar and defensive line coach Mike Phair.[21] The Bears replaced them with Paul Pasqualoni as defensive line coach and Reggie Herring as linebackers coach.[22]

On January 20, 2015, following another record-setting low defensive season for the Bears in 2014, Tucker was replaced by former San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, under new head coach John Fox.[23]

Return to NCAA

Tucker spent the 2015 season with the Alabama Crimson Tide as assistant head coach and defensive backs coach,[24] during which the team won the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship.[25]

In 2016, Tucker moved to Georgia as the defensive coordinator,[25] where he remained through 2018.

Colorado

On December 5, 2018, Tucker signed an agreement to become the Colorado Buffaloes' head coach starting in 2019.[26] In his lone season at the helm, Tucker's Buffaloes posted a 5–7 record (3–6 in the Pac-12).

Michigan State

On February 12, 2020, Tucker resigned as Colorado's head coach to accept the same position at Michigan State.[27] Tucker's contract at Michigan State was worth $5.5 million annually for six years; more than double his contract at Colorado (five years, $14.8 million) and more than $1 million annually over previous head coach Mark Dantonio ($4.3 million per annum).[28] At the time of signing, Tucker became the 12th-highest paid head coach in the FBS and fourth in the Big Ten.[29]

With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing a late start for Big Ten teams in the 2020 season, Tucker's Spartans made their debut on October 24, 2020. MSU turned the ball over seven times in Tucker's head coaching debut and lost to Rutgers, 38–27. MSU rebounded the following week to defeat in-state rival Michigan, 27–24, for Tucker's first win as a Spartan. After lopsided losses to Iowa and Indiana, Michigan State upset No. 8-ranked Northwestern, 29–20, handing the Wildcats their first loss of the season. Tucker would finish the abbreviated 2020 season with a 2–5 record.

2021 season

Unranked to begin the 2021 season, Tucker's Spartans jumped out to a 8–0 start, including a come-from-behind win over in-state rival and No. 6-ranked Michigan, causing the Spartans to move up to No. 5 in the AP poll and No. 6 in the Coaches poll. In the process, Tucker became the first MSU head coach to beat Michigan in his first two career meetings.[30] Tucker's Spartans were ranked No. 3 in the initial CFP rankings released Nov. 2.

Following MSU's first loss at Purdue in Week 9, the Spartans dropped to No. 8 in the AP poll and No. 9 in the Coaches' poll.[31] The loss also dropped MSU to No. 7 in the CFP rankings.[32] MSU's 40–21 victory over Maryland on November 13, coupled with Oklahoma's first loss of the season, moved the Spartans up to No. 7 in the AP poll and No. 8 in the Coaches' poll.[33] Following a crushing 56–7 defeat at the hands of Ohio State, the 9–2 Spartans dropped to No. 12 in the AP poll and No. 13 in the Coaches' poll.[34] MSU closed out the regular season with a 30–27 victory over Penn State, moving them up to No. 11 in the AP poll while remaining at No. 13 in the Coaches' poll.[35] Michigan State reached 10 wins for the first time since 2017, and went undefeated at home (6–0) for the first time since 2015.[36] The Spartans went on to defeat Pittsburgh in the Peach Bowl 31–21, marking MSU's first 11-win season since their Big 10 winning 2015 campaign. MSU finished the season ranked No. 8 in the Coaches Poll and No. 9 in the AP poll, the team's highest rankings since 2015.

On November 24, MSU and Tucker agreed to a 10-year, $95 million contract extension.[37] This decision caused considerable surprise among college football observers, as Tucker had a career record of 16–14 at the time.[38]

On November 30, Tucker won the Big Ten Coach of the Year awards, being named both the Hayes-Schembechler Coach of the Year (coaches' vote) and the Dave McClain Coach of the Year (media vote).[39]

2022 season

MSU began the 2022 season ranked in both the AP and Coaches' polls.[40] But after opening the season with wins over Western Michigan and Akron, the Spartans lost their next four games, against Washington, Minnesota, Maryland and Ohio State, all by double-digit margins.[41] After ending the losing streak with a double-overtime home win against Wisconsin, the Spartans again lost by double-digits, this time to Michigan. The season concluded with another double digit loss to Penn State and no bowl game for the second time in three years.[42]

2023 season

MSU won their first two games under Tucker, defeating Central Michigan 31–7 and Richmond 45–14. Michigan State suspended Tucker after two games and he was officially fired on September 27, 2023.

Sexual harassment accusation and firing

On September 10, 2023, USA Today published a story detailing alleged sexual harassment by Tucker of Brenda Tracy. Tracy, a rape survivor and anti-sexual violence advocate, had visited Michigan State's campus several times to speak with the team. Tracy alleged a pattern of inappropriate behavior, culminating in Tucker masturbating during a phone call. The incident is alleged to have occurred in April 2022. Tucker characterized the phone sex as consensual.[43] Michigan State suspended Tucker without pay later that day, with Harlon Barnett taking over as interim head coach.[44] On September 18, the university announced it had begun the process of terminating Tucker for cause as a result of the allegations, while allowing an ongoing university investigation to continue.[45] In a letter from his attorneys, Tucker disputed the allegations.[46] Tucker was officially fired by Michigan State on September 27, 2023.[6]

Head coaching record

NFL

Team Year Regular Season Post Season
Won Lost Ties Win % Finish Won Lost Win % Result
JAX* 2011 2 3 0 .400 4th in AFC South

* – Interim head coach

College

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs Coaches# AP°
Colorado Buffaloes (Pac-12 Conference) (2019)
2019 Colorado 5–7 3–6 5th (South)
Colorado: 5–7 3–6
Michigan State Spartans (Big Ten Conference) (2020–2023)
2020 Michigan State 2–5 2–5 7th (East)
2021 Michigan State 11–2 7–2 3rd (East) W Peach 8 9
2022 Michigan State 5–7 3–6 5th (East)
2023 Michigan State 2–0[a] 0–0 (East)
Michigan State: 20–14 12–13
Total: 25–21
  1. ^ Michigan State suspended Tucker after two games.

References

  1. ^ "Melvin Gene Tucker II '90". Heights Schools Foundation. August 31, 2021. Retrieved September 9, 2023.
  2. ^ Stellino, Vito (January 24, 2009). "Jaguars sign Tucker as new D-coordinator". Florida Times-Union. Retrieved December 29, 2010.
  3. ^ Mike Florio (November 29, 2011). "Del Rio out in Jacksonville". profootballtalk.nbcsports.com. NBC Sports. Retrieved November 29, 2011.
  4. ^ "Mel Tucker kick-started a college football contract surge, and Jim Harbaugh got left out". mlive. August 8, 2022. Retrieved December 23, 2022.
  5. ^ Sterling, Wayne; Sottile, Zoe (September 19, 2023). "Michigan State University announces plans to fire Mel Tucker amid sexual harassment allegations". CNN. Retrieved September 19, 2023.
  6. ^ a b "MSU fires Tucker for bringing 'ridicule' to program". ESPN.com. September 27, 2023. Retrieved September 27, 2023.
  7. ^ "Mel Tucker". CUBuffs.com. University of Colorado Boulder. Retrieved February 12, 2020.
  8. ^ a b c "Mel Tucker, Interim Head Coach". www.jaguars.com. Jacksonville Jaguars. 2011. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved November 30, 2011.
  9. ^ Baird, Nathan; clevel; .com (November 19, 2021). "How Cleveland Heights' Mel Tucker became the coach who sold Michigan State football on its dramatic turnaround". cleveland. Retrieved November 20, 2021.
  10. ^ Gene Frenette (November 30, 2011). "Low-key Mel Tucker takes center stage as Jaguars' coach". The Florida Times-Union. Retrieved November 30, 2011.
  11. ^ Associated Press (January 12, 2008). "Browns Fire Grantham as Defensive Coordinator". The New York Times. Retrieved December 29, 2010.
  12. ^ Bensch, Bob (January 12, 2008). "Cleveland Browns Promote Mel Tucker to Defensive Coordinator". Bloomberg. Retrieved December 29, 2010.
  13. ^ Carucci, Vic (May 28, 2009). "Many teams make notable adjustments on defense". NFL.com. Retrieved December 29, 2010.
  14. ^ "Jags hire coordinators". St. Lucie News Tribune. January 25, 2009. p. 33. Retrieved February 11, 2024 – via Newspapers.com.
  15. ^ Frenette, Gene (November 29, 2011). "Low-key Mel Tucker takes center stage as Jaguars' coach". Florida Times-Union. Retrieved February 11, 2024.
  16. ^ Walker, Teresa M. (December 24, 2011). "Jacksonville will try to spoil Tennessee's must-win situation". The Park City Daily News. p. B1. Retrieved February 11, 2024 – via Newspapers.com.
  17. ^ Ganguli, Tania (December 12, 2011). "Jaguars roll over Tampa Bay 41-14". Florida Times-Union. Retrieved February 11, 2024.
  18. ^ "Fisher makes his choice: Rams over Dolphins". The Tampa Tribune. January 14, 2012. p. 18. Retrieved February 11, 2024 – via Newspapers.com.
  19. ^ "Chicago Bears name Mel Tucker defensive coordinator". National Football League. January 18, 2013. Retrieved January 18, 2013.
  20. ^ Haugh, David (December 30, 2013). "Emotions aside, Bears must say bye to Mel Tucker". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved January 10, 2014.
  21. ^ Dickerson, Jeff (January 13, 2014). "Bears fire two assistant coaches". ESPN Chicago. Retrieved January 10, 2014.
  22. ^ Meyer, Larry (January 23, 2014). "Bears hire two assistant coaches". Chicago Bears. Retrieved January 10, 2014.
  23. ^ Wright, Michael (January 20, 2015). "Vic Fangio new Bears D-coordinator".
  24. ^ Zenitz, Matt (August 11, 2015). "Mel Tucker already making difference for Alabama, Kirby Smart says". The Birmingham News. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
  25. ^ a b "Colorado hires Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker". ESPN. Associated Press. December 5, 2018. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
  26. ^ Howell, Brian (December 5, 2018). "Done deal: CU Buffs to hire Mel Tucker as head coach". Boulder Daily Camera. Retrieved December 5, 2018.
  27. ^ Steele, Phil (February 12, 2020). "University of Colorado head football coach Mel Tucker has informed CU Athletic Director Rick George that he is resigning his position, effective immediately". @philsteele042. Retrieved February 12, 2020.
  28. ^ Barnett, Zach (February 13, 2020). "On Mel Tucker's contract, and what it took to get that deal". FootballScoop. Retrieved February 26, 2020.
  29. ^ Solari, Chris. "Mel Tucker's contract as Michigan State football coach worth more than $5.5 million per year". USA TODAY. Retrieved February 26, 2020.
  30. ^ Knight, Kevin (October 31, 2021). "Michigan State Spartans jump to No. 5 in AP Poll and No. 6 in Coaches Poll". theonlycolors.com. Retrieved November 1, 2021.
  31. ^ Wenzel, Matt (November 7, 2021). "Michigan State drops in national rankings after loss to Purdue". MLive.com. Retrieved November 8, 2021.
  32. ^ Silverstein, Adam (November 9, 2021). "College Football Playoff Rankings: Ohio State moves into No. 4 spot behind Oregon in new top 25". CBSsports.com. Retrieved November 10, 2021.
  33. ^ Wenzel, Matt (November 14, 2021). "Michigan State moves up in national rankings". MLive.com. Retrieved November 15, 2021.
  34. ^ Knight, Kevin (November 21, 2021). "Michigan State drops to No. 12 in AP Poll, No. 13 in Coaches Poll". SBnation.com. Retrieved November 24, 2021.
  35. ^ "College Football Rankings - Week 14". ESPN.com. Retrieved November 29, 2021.
  36. ^ Davis, Tyler J. (November 27, 2012). "Michigan State football enjoys snow day, beats Penn State, 30-27: Game thread recap". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved November 29, 2021.
  37. ^ "Michigan State coach Mel Tucker agrees to 10-year, $95 million contract as Spartans eye 10 wins". ESPN.com. November 24, 2021. Retrieved November 29, 2021.
  38. ^ "Mel Tucker contract: Michigan State takes risk overpaying its coach hoping to raise program's prominence". November 27, 2021.
  39. ^ Wenzel, Matt (November 30, 2021). "Michigan State's Mel Tucker sweeps Big Ten Coach of the Year awards". MLive.com. Retrieved December 1, 2021.
  40. ^ "Preseason College Football Rankings 2022: Top 25 Coaches Poll Released". Bleacher Report.
  41. ^ "MSU football drops fourth straight game in another double-digit loss vs. Ohio State". October 8, 2022.
  42. ^ Wolverines avenge last season's loss, kick away Spartans to reach 8-0
  43. ^ Jacoby, Kenny (September 10, 2023). "Michigan State football coach Mel Tucker accused of sexually harassing rape survivor". USA Today. Retrieved September 10, 2023.
  44. ^ Solari, Chris (September 10, 2023). "Michigan State suspends head football coach Mel Tucker; Harlon Barnett serving as interim". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved September 18, 2023.
  45. ^ Lage, Larry (September 18, 2023). "Michigan State tells football coach Mel Tucker it will fire him for misconduct with rape survivor". Associated Press. Retrieved September 18, 2023.
  46. ^ "Tucker responds formally to MSU firing attempt". ESPN.com. September 25, 2023. Retrieved September 27, 2023.