Two donors pledged $24M toward salary for Michigan State football coach Mel Tucker

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. 25, 2021.

Donors are paying a portion of Michigan State football coach Mel Tucker’s salary, but it’s not as much as some might have assumed.

According to records released by the university on Thursday, Mat Ishbia and Steve 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 Tucker’s salary, meaning Michigan State will be responsible for the remaining $71 million of Tucker’s 10-year, $95 million deal.

Mel Tucker

While donors cannot specify their gift go toward a specific coach’s salary, they can indicate their preference for how the money is used.

Ishbia’s donation — $14 million paid over 10 installments — states his “affinity” for using the donation to benefit the football team, men’s basketball team or the Spartan For Life fund.

The donation from St. Andre — $10 million paid over six installments — says it “may include, but are not limited to recruitment and retention for the MSU Men's Intercollegiate Football Team.”

Both contracts also state, “Nothing in this Agreement, however, shall be construed to affect MSU’s control over any employment decision related to any coach or staff member or the use of the Gift.”

The release of the deals comes after Michigan State was ordered on Dec. 13 that it had 10 days to publicly disclose the agreements between the university and Ishbia and St. Andre used to fund much of Tucker’s contract.

Michigan Court of Claims Judge Brock Swartzle ruled the university's agreements for three contributions made by United Wholesale Mortgage's Mat Ishbia and Shift Digital CEO Stephen St. Andre did not fall under privacy exemptions in the state's public records law.

Swartzle sided with the Detroit Free Press, which sued for the records after the university repeatedly blocked the release of the agreements.

“The university respects the tenants of openness and transparency in government the Michigan Freedom of Information Act seeks to further,” MSU Deputy Spokesperson Dan Olsen said in a statement. “As a public body, we also have an obligation and responsibility to protect individuals’ right to privacy while balancing the openness that furthers ethical governance.

“We deeply value and thank our generous donors for their contributions which continue to support the success of the institution and our Spartans — students, faculty and staff.”

The agreements Ishbia and St. Andre had were included in the records released by Michigan State on Thursday. Also included was the $32 million donation made to Michigan State Athletics in February of 2021, the largest single-cash commitment in MSU's history from an individual.

Most of that detail was released at the time the donation was announced, including $20 million toward updates and expansion at the football building that would be named after basketball coach Tom Izzo. Ishbia also allocated $2 million to the Spartan For Life fund, which goes toward leadership and career development for MSU athletes, $2 million to the Men's Basketball Excellence Fund, which Izzo can spend at his discretion, and $6.2 million to establish the MSU Athletics Excellence Fund that the athletic director can spend at his discretion.

The deal also called for the court at the Breslin Center to be named “Tom Izzo Court” while the southwest entrance will be in honor of Ishbia’s parents, Jeff and Joanne Ishbia.

The remaining $1.8 million will “reserve certain goods and services” for Ishbia for the next decade, include tickets and suites to Michigan State football, basketball and ice hockey games.

Twitter: @mattcharboneau