June 18, 2024 9:12 am

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The Status of Michigan State Football in 2023: A Look at Head Coach Mel Tucker's Position

Michigan State Football entered a phase of turbulence following a disappointing 5-7 campaign in 2022. Is head coach Mel Tucker’s position under threat? Probably not yet.
An image of Michigan State University football’s head coach, Mel Tucker

Michigan State Football entered a phase of turbulence following a disappointing 5-7 campaign in 2022, a stark contrast to their previous 11-2 season in 2021. CBS Sports, which annually ranks each program’s head coach based on the likelihood of dismissal, has placed Michigan State’s Mel Tucker in the “pressure is mounting” category. Yet, it’s unlikely that Tucker’s position is under immediate threat.

A Stellar Coaching Career

Mel Tucker, the 25th head football coach at Michigan State University, has led an illustrious coaching career spanning 27 years. Appointed in February 2020, Tucker quickly demonstrated his coaching prowess. In his second year in East Lansing, he steered MSU to an 11-2 record, a Top 10 ranking, and a New Year’s Six victory over No. 12 Pittsburgh, ACC Champion, in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. This remarkable turnaround led to several accolades, including nominations for National Coach of the Year by numerous organizations and the honor of being named College Coach of the Year by the National Coalition of Minority Football Coaches in June 2022.

Tucker’s coaching resume, which began under the tutelage of Nick Saban at Michigan State, is dotted with successes, both in college and the NFL. His coaching tenure spans across various esteemed institutions, including Colorado, Southeastern Conference, and Ohio State. With a 124-50 record in the FBS and two national championships under his belt, Tucker’s reputation as a formidable coach is indisputable.

Fluctuating Fortunes and Rising Pressure

Following the euphoria of the 2021 season, MSU’s performance took a downturn in 2022, ending with a lackluster 5-7 record. This unexpected dip has led to some discontent among Michigan State’s fanbase. A small faction is already placing Tucker on the “hot seat” as we move into 2023, demanding an improved performance this fall.

CBS Sports’ college football reporter Dennis Dodd commented on the situation, emphasizing that the power to decide Tucker’s fate lies mainly in the hands of the boosters Mat Ishbia and Steve St. Andre. Their financial contributions turned Tucker into one of the highest-paid coaches in football. Dodd further speculated on the public question of Tucker’s identity as a coach – is he the triumphant ‘portal king’ of the 11-2 2021 season, or the coach who led the team to a disappointing 5-7 in 2022?

The Unlikelihood of Dismissal

Despite the mounting pressure and rumblings of dissatisfaction, Tucker’s position seems secure, barring a complete disaster in the 2023 season. The reasons are twofold: financial and strategic. Firing Tucker after 2023 would entail paying him $76 million, a part of his massive contract extension received amidst the 2021 season. Furthermore, hiring a replacement would require more expenditure, a financial burden that seems untenable.

Tucker’s track record of transforming teams, coupled with his recruiting prowess, reinforces the belief in his capabilities. Eight of Tucker’s 23 wins as a head coach have been against AP Top 25 opponents, a testimony to his tactical acumen. As a recruiter, Tucker is renowned for attracting top talent, leading the Spartans to secure back-to-back Top 25 recruiting classes for 2022 and 2023.

Under Tucker, Michigan State has also achieved academic successes with a record number of Academic All-Big Ten selections in 2020 and 2021.

Looking Ahead to 2023

The 2023 season, therefore, is a litmus test for Tucker and Michigan State. The journey ahead may be fraught with challenges, but Tucker’s vast experience, strategic mindset, and remarkable track record provide a beacon of hope for the team and the fans. As pressure mounts and expectations rise, only time will tell if the veteran coach can once again orchestrate a turnaround and return Michigan State to its triumphant form.

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