A day after Michigan State was spurned by Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell for its head football coaching job, a Board of Trustees member pushed back against criticism of the university and said MSU does not want a “waffling flake” as a head coach.
Fickell had been considered the front-runner to replace Mark Dantonio, who stepped down last Tuesday after 13 seasons. Fickell met with athletic director Bill Beekman Sunday in Cincinnati and then revealed Monday morning he would remain in his current job.
Brian Mosallam, a member of MSU’s Board of Trustees, joined the “Jamie and Stoney” show Tuesday morning to discuss the status of the search. The Board of Trustees met with the search committee at Beekman’s office for about two hours Monday night to get an update on the search, which must now pivot after Fickell declined.
Among the coaches who have expressed interest for the MSU job is former Wisconsin and Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema, now with the New York Giants. Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi, formerly MSU defensive coordinator, came out last week saying he was staying with his team, as did Colorado coach Mel Tucker. San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh also reportedly turned down an interview request from Michigan State.
Other names that have popped up as potential candidates are Central Michigan’s Jim McElwain and Eastern Michigan’s Chris Creighton.
“Let me say this, by 9 p.m. last night, I personally had more information finally than the media did," Mosallam told hosts Jamie Samuelsen and Mike Stone, "and let me be as diplomatic as possible here for Spartans everywhere — at the end of the day, we can’t force somebody to come here.
“You know, Spartan Nation should want somebody that wants to be here. We don’t want a waffling flake who views this as a destination job.”
Samuelsen and Stone then asked Mosallam if he was referring to Fickell as “a waffling flake."
“I’m just saying, in general, there’s a lot of misinformation out there and I think it’s important that some of that stuff clears up,” he said. “At the end of the day, we can’t make somebody come here. So we want somebody that wants to be here, that understands Michigan State, that wants to do everything they can to get here. It’s very, very important for a job like this.”
The show hosts asked another follow-up regarding Fickell.
“I think we gotta move on from here, guys,” Mosallam said. “We’re on to the next phase. It’s time to move on.”
Mosallam responded to reports that candidates are concerned with the issues regarding campus culture at Michigan State.
“So I think that the compliance question has come up with many candidates and understanding where we are with all of that and the fallout from the (Larry) Nassar scandal,” Mosallam said. “And that’s why (MSU compliance director) Jen Smith was there accompanying, to answer those questions and to alleviate concerns regarding that.
“I think there’s been a lot of misinformation about the Board of Trustees and what they knew and who meddled and who did what. And, I think it’s important for everybody to realize that … we’re not involved in this process. The process is, as I stated last Wednesday, that it is the committee comes to the board to make a recommendation and the board to give a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down. That’s where a lot of misinformation was. Everybody else can draw their own conclusions, but we need to move forward collectively together.”
While the board is not involved in the search process, it is tasked with approving whoever the search committee recommends for the job. From there, the decision from the board is essentially approved by the university president, who signs the contract.
When Dantonio announced his retirement last week, Michigan State was put in a difficult timing position. Mosallam was asked if Dantonio’s timing has been a challenge for finding a replacement.
“We’ve moved on from that,” he said. “I’m not gonna get into the past and who did what and did that. I think the timing was unique, and I think we’re here now. And this is where we’re at right now, and I think collectively we really need to move forward and understand and be patient and let’s see how this process plays out and wait for a recommendation to come forward.”
Mosallam said it has not been an issue that Beekman does not have much experience as an athletic director. He was asked if the athletic director is in over his head.
“No, I don’t think that’s fair,” Mosallam said. “I think there are very capable (people) that are helping him. I think they’re consulting and there are many great Spartans, many people that understand this process — experts, consultants — involved. I don’t think so. I think a lot of this stuff is overblown. You know, everything moves in six-hour news cycles.
“I think that when we looked at everything that’s been done so far, how it’s transpired, how it’s laid out, the information that was given to us, I can see where and how we’re headed. I think the optics, though, again, we’re not out there controlling the narrative. We’re not out there telling the story and trying to inform people, and so social media is ablaze. And everybody is just drawing up conclusions on how this transpired. Again, optically, is a concern with how this process has unfolded.
"But, guys, there’s a lot of rumors and a lot of misinformation out there that we just can’t address every minute. I mean, it just can’t be addressed. So I think, again, everybody needs to take a collective breath, let the process play out and let the committee come back to the board with a recommendation.”
Mosallam said former MSU quarterback Kirk Cousins, now with the Minnesota Vikings and several former players have been consulted with regard to the coaching search. Some former players took to social media on Monday, for instance, to push for Harlon Barnett. Barnett played for MSU from 1986-1989, coached defensive backs for the Spartans from 2007-2014 and was co-defensive coordinator, 2015-2017.
Barnett left to become defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach at Florida State, but was not retained after his second season.
“I don’t opine on those things,” Mosallam said on the radio show. “My job is to evaluate the AD’s recommendation, to give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down and then the AD gets evaluated on the performance of that coach. That’s really all our role is.”
He was asked if Michigan State could move on with an interim coach this upcoming season or does he want to see the Spartans land a full-time coach.
“I don’t have an opinion,” he said. “My job is to evaluate the AD’s recommendation and to collectively as a board, approve or disapprove. And based on the person he recommended, evaluate the AD. I mean, that’s our role in this. That’s it. There’s no other role as it states. Our opinions are irrelevant, our opinions don’t matter. As far as I can see, I know personally I have not given my opinion. I’ve stayed out of the process. And this is where this misconception about the board’s involvement (comes from), and I personally can say a lot of that is just not true.
“We’re gonna go through this process, and once we get to a coach, I’m sure more of the situation will be explained and hopefully everybody will see it clearer.”