It’s only been 22 months. On Nov. 24, 2021, Michigan State made Mel Tucker one of the highest-paid coaches in the history of the college football. The fully guaranteed 10-year, $95 million contract dropped jaws.
As well as Tucker had done to that point as an accomplished college and NFL assistant, he hadn’t done much to earn $95 million. At that point in his career, Tucker had gone 2-0 against Michigan, gotten the Spartans into the top four of the College Football Playoff Rankings and — four days before the deal — lost to Ohio State by 49 points.
Well, the conclusion must be something like that after another jaw-dropper on Monday. Michigan State announced it is in the process ofin the wake of a sexual harassment scandal. An Office of Civil Rights hearing is scheduled at Michigan State for Oct. 5 with the school already in the middle of a coaching search.
Michigan State can likely save some money by paying the next coach what he is worth. In his three-plus seasons at MSU, Tucker went 20-14 with a 2-0 start to the 2023 season.
Michigan State coaching candidates
Jonathan Smith, Oregon State coach: The Beavers underrated boss must seriously consider a move to stay in what will soon be the Power Four. With Oregon State’s impending move to the Mountain West, resources are going to decline considerably. Smith, a former Beavers quarterback, built the program from ashes to 10 wins last year. He’s a developmental guy who would have access to much more talent at Michigan State. Consider what he’s done with DJ Uiagalelei already this season. Complicating matters for a lot of names on this list: The season is three weeks old. Could Smith fight off distractions while back channels are worked so he can make the transition at season’s end?
Mike Elko, Duke coach: Elko is going to have his choice of jobs after the season — especially if Texas A&M opens up. In less than two seasons, he has turned around Duke with a quarterback (Riley Leonard) who is NFL material. The former TAMU and Notre Dame defensive coordinator is quickly proving he has head coaching champs. Michigan State should be interested. Elko knows the territory and how a major program should be run.
Brian Hartline, Ohio State offensive coordinator: There’s a reason Hartline got an extension, a promotion and a raise.: A major job opening and Hartline being considered. The 36-year-old assistant is the leading recruiter and developer of wide receivers in the country, which makes up for what he lacks is coaching experience. Staying in the Big Ten would help Hartline get assimilated.
Sean Lewis, Colorado offensive coordinator: There might not be a . Lewis has been in charge (offensively) of the remarkable turnaround at Colorado. QB Shedeur Sanders is a Heisman Trophy candidate. No-name receivers have stepped up. Lewis has coaching experience having led Kent State to the first bowl game in program history four seasons ago. He also knows the Big Ten having coached and recruited in the conference’s footprint since 2011.
Jim Leonhard, Illinois analyst: Once considered the best defensive coordinator in the nation, Leonhard became Wisconsin’s interm coach when Paul Chryst was fired last year. Surprisingly, there weren’t any openings that fit him in the last coaching cycle. Michigan State could do a lot worse.
Mike Tressel, Wisconsin defensive coordinator: This is a no-brainer. From 2007-20, Tressel was a Michigan State assistant for Mark Dantonio and Tucker when the Spartans finished in the top 15 six times and went to a Rose Bowl. Tressel spent five of those years as defensive coordinator. After Michigan State, he spent two years as Luke Fickell’s defensive chief at Cincinnati before following him to Wisconsin.
Jason Candle, Toledo coach: You can’t be more Toledo than Candle. He has been at the school since 2009, entering his ninth season as head coach. During that time, he has won two MAC titles and led the program to nine wins on three occasions. The likes of Michigan State are thought to be the reason Candle has stayed so long in the MAC. He was waiting for the right job to come along. This might be it.
Bill O’Brien, New England Patriots offensive coordinator: Tom Brady’s former mentor, an ex-NFL head coach and general manager, a Penn State savior, and just last year, Alabama’s offensive coordinator. If Obie wants back in college, this would be a perfect fit for the offensively challenged Spartans.
Mark Dantonio, Michigan associate coach: Coach D was named to his current post to assist Harlon Bennett in his interim role. Dantonio is said to be interested in returning, but at age 67, will the school consider him for a comeback? One thing in his favor: Dantonio is arguably the program’s best coach having won three Big Ten titles with three New Year’s Six bowl appearances and a College Football Playoff berth in 2015.
Harlon Barnett, Michigan State acting coach: Barnett has deep roots and is liked by everyone in East Lansing. He was an All-American defender for George Perles and entered his 12th year as a MSU assistant. But his candidacy for this job was likely extinguished after a 41-7 loss to Washington on Saturday. Michigan State is not only desperate to beat Michigan, it is desperate to get back on the national stage. Dantonio and Tucker gave Spartans everywhere a whiff of greatness.