MSU set to give Mel Tucker historic 10-year, $95 million contract

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Editor's note: Mat Ishbia, the CEO on Pontiac-based United Wholesale Mortgage Holding Corp., and Shift Digital CEO Stephen St. Andre will donate $24 million to Michigan State athletics with each noting their preference the money go toward the football program and the funding of MSU head football coach Mel Tucker’s salary, in an agreement made public Thursday, Dec. 22, 2022. The description of the amount was incorrect in a story published Nov. 17, 2021.

Michigan State and football coach Mel Tucker are closing in on a new contract, one that will make him among the highest-paid coaches in college football.

A source close to the negotiations confirmed to The Detroit News on Wednesday that Tucker will get a 10-year, $95 million contract that will make him the highest-paid coach in the Big Ten and the second-highest paid coach in the country behind Alabama's Nick Saban, a former MSU coach who makes $9.753 million. The new deal would also increase the salary pool for assistant coaches, which was at $6 million when Tucker was hired. The source requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the deal. 

The deal is expected to be announced as early as Thursday, according to the source.

Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker.

MSU board member Rema Vassar, who declined to confirm any potential package, said negotiations are not finished but called Tucker "a gift to our school."

“He’s a veritable magician,” Vassar said. “He’s come through, and we have seen unprecedented increases in student applications after his wins. He has rejuvenated us, our alumni and donors. He brought us back from COVID and united us.

“We want to keep the momentum going.”

Private funding will be responsible for the bulk of the contract with United Wholesale Mortgage president and CEO Mat Ishbia at the forefront of the push to secure a new contract for Tucker, along with longtime donor and CEO of Shift Digital, Steve St. Andre.

Ishbia is the former walk-on for the 2000 national championship basketball team who has become one of the top donors to MSU athletics. Earlier this year, Ishbia donated $32 million to the department with $20 million going toward the expansion and renovation of the football building. He also put together a name, image and likeness deal with UWM and every player on the football and men’s basketball teams at Michigan State. St. Andre is a Michigan State alumnus and founded Shift Digital, a digital marketing firm in Birmingham.

On Saturday, Michigan State athletics received a $10 million donation from Greg and Dawn Williams for the football building expansion project.

Tucker’s name has been mentioned in several coaching vacancies, most prominently the job at LSU that will become available at the end of the season after the departure of Ed Orgeron. Orgeron makes $9.012 million this season.

For subscribers: Niyo: New deal for Mel Tucker shows how deep MSU is willing to dig

Currently, Tucker 49, makes a little more than $5.5 million per year and is in the second year of a five-year deal signed in February 2020. He is the 13th highest-paid coach in college football and ranks fourth in the Big Ten behind Penn State's James Franklin, Ohio State's Ryan Day and Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald.

The new contract also will make Tucker the highest-paid Black head coach in sports, surpassing Stanford's David Shaw, who is making just more than $8.9 million per year. Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers is the highest-paid Black coach in the NFL at $8 million a year, while Doc Rivers of the Philadelphia 76ers earns the same in the NBA. 

Providence's Ed Cooley was the highest-paid Black head coach in college basketball at $3.4 million in 2020-21, according to a USA TODAY salary database.

The new contract has been in the works for several weeks, as soon as reports surfaced LSU was interested in Tucker. Sources said the deal has been close for some time but that Michigan State president Samuel Stanley hadn't signed off.

On Wednesday, Trustee Brianna Scott disputed the notion that Stanley was holding up the process.

“Listen, the President Stanley rumors (as they relate to MSU negotiations with Coach Tucker) are completely FALSE!” Scott posted on Twitter. “WE want Coach Tucker to stay, and this is a collective effort between the BOT and President Stanley to retain Coach Tucker.”

No. 7 Michigan State (9-1, 6-1 Big Ten) is preparing for Saturday’s game at No. 4 Ohio State (9-1, 7-0), with the winner on the inside track to win the Big Ten East, reach the conference championship game and perhaps earn a spot in the College Football Playoff.

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Twitter: @mattcharboneau

Staff Writer Kim Kozlowski contributed.