Mel Tucker Did Michigan State A Gigantic Favor
After my sheer shock at Mel Tucker's inconceivable stupidity and/or flippant disregard for basic decency wore off, along with my incredulity at the fact that Michigan State finds itself engulfed in yet another sex scandal, I realized something.
Despite the white-hot nature of my initial reaction, I was suddenly overcome with a sense of calm and peace. Why? Because, I realized, I was relieved.
Relieved that the Mel Tucker Experiment at MSU is over.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not happy with how we got to this point. Brenda Tracy's allegations against Tucker are disturbing, to say the least, and I believe her. I believed her before Tucker completed the PR Disaster Hat Trick Monday afternoon by releasing a statement based on victim-blaming, sexism, and race-baiting, and the words his attorney carefully concocted for him only further validated my opinion. I hate that my alma mater is besieged by another controversy like this, accumulating its umteenth black eye in a matter of just a few years. I'm pissed that the Spartans' football season is ruined before it ever really got started, too.
But I honestly believe that Michigan State football's future is brighter now than it was Saturday before all of this came to light. And that's because Tucker will no longer be running the program.
Let's be honest about this. Did any of us genuinely believe Tucker was going to work out in the long term for MSU? Virtually every indication post-2021 has been a resounding no. That season was magical, there's no doubt, and at the time it seemed like the sky was the limit.
But it's been a long time since we had that kind of hope, and we certainly haven't had that expectation during the Tucker era.
It's OK to feel relieved. As an MSU supporter, you should. That doesn't mean you have to be happy about what went down. You can be disgusted, disappointed, and outraged by the journey, yet still content with the destination. That's how I feel. I think that's how many — if not most — Spartans feel. They just won't say it for fear of being called insensitive. I'm here to tell you that it's OK. You can have your cake and eat it, too, at least in this instance.
Because Tucker showed us who he truly is, Michigan State is able to hit the reset button, and it couldn't come at a better time. College football is changing, and it's changing fast. MSU's conference is getting bigger and better next season. State would have been in serious peril heading into this bold new era with Tucker in charge.
Now, MSU can take its time to find the right fit this go-round instead of the right now fit. You can safely bet the search for Michigan State's next permanent head football coach will be an arduous, painstaking, months-long process, and that a wide-ranging cast of candidates will be considered and thoroughly vetted.
In other words, the upcoming search will be everything the one that resulted in Tucker's hiring wasn't.
And don't think for a second that Tucker's self-implosion in any way harms the appeal of Michigan State as a college football coaching job. This is a Top 20 program all-time by virtually any criterion: Achievements, attendance, revenue, support, TV ratings, etc. Sure, the MSU job may not come with all the built-in advantages the Alabamas, Ohio States, Notre Dames, Michigans, or USCs enjoy. But it's still one of the best 25 or so gigs in the entire sport. And, by the way, it doesn't exactly hurt that coaches everywhere know now that Michigan State has the kind of money to lock a guy up for 10 years at almost $10 million per season and that it ain't scared to spend it.
Speaking of money, Tucker really bailed MSU out in that regard. There's some $80 million and eight years left on the mega extension State signed him to back in 2021. But it doesn't take a J.D. to know that the actions Tucker admitted to in his Title IX investigation, regardless of whether he's found to have violated university policy against sexual harassment and exploitation, constitute a breach of the so-called moral turpitude clause in his contract, meaning that MSU almost certainly has an ironclad legal defense to fire him for cause and thereby avoid paying him a that massive sum as a buyout.
Avoiding an $80 million expense to make a problem go away is a huge win on its own. But the even more significant victory here for MSU is that it gets out from underneath an albatross of a contract and is able to end the Tucker experiment several years early. If he hadn't so spectacularly self-immolated, we were very likely in for at least three or four more agonizing seasons of bad football. That would have done immeasurable and perhaps irreparable harm to this program at the worst possible time. The kind of harm that takes more than a decade and as long as an entire generation to overcome.
But we don't have to worry about that now, thanks to Tucker and his misplaced arrogance, brazen apathy, acute ineptitude, or some unthinkable combination thereof.
Instead, MSU gets to start over. It will be the biggest hire in the long history of this program. Am I confident Michigan State's leaders, who seem paralyzed by a case of terminal disfunction, will get it right? No. But because of Tucker's incredible downfall, I have reason to hope they'll understand and appreciate the magnitude of this moment and learn from their mistakes.
MSU is fortunate. Most programs don't get out of a disaster hire early without paying millions of dollars or suffering through years of devastating contractual attrition. But Mel Tucker has delivered State from himself and, in so doing, likely spared Michigan State far worse ruin.