There are so few Black head coaches at bigtime football schools that the handful who hold those positions are always under extremely close scrutiny. The pressure to succeed, while high for coaches at any major institution, doubles for Black coaches, whose record will be used as a measuring stick that can either help or hurt peers seeking similar jobs. That is grossly unfair. It is also reality.
But new Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker faces more challenges than usual. First, he left behind ruffled feathers among media members in Colorado, where he’d only coached one season. His 5-7 mark wasn’t great, but all observers felt he had established a good foundation, and in time could return Colorado to its past heights. Plus, Tucker said earlier he wasn’t interested in the Michigan State job. Some Colorado writers ripped him, but everyone, even those upset at his decision, couldn’t deny he had to make that move at this time.
Tucker once was a graduate assistant at Michigan State, though by his own admission his job was more all-purpose handyman than coach. But three distinguished years as Georgia’s defensive coordinator gave Tucker the exposure and profile he needed to land the Colorado job, and he did well enough, both on the field and in his interview, to convince MSU officials he was the right man for the job.
He comes to a school whose previous head coach suddenly and mysteriously decided to resign. It’s also the place where a sordid individual named Larry Nasser sexually abused multiple women gymnasts under the auspices of the MSU athletic department. The fallout from that vile situation hasn’t ended.
MSU has also lost three of its last four games to in-state rival Michigan, something else that paved the way for 13-year coach Mark Dantonio to decide it was time to vacate the premises.
“We’re going to get it done,” Tucker said last week to the Detroit Free Press. “I can promise you I’m gonna do my best to bring in the best and brightest, and first and foremost, the highest of character guys and coaches to be role models for our student-athletes, guys that are gonna teach, motivate and develop our players on and off the field.”
Spartans fans certainly love that kind of talk. Time will tell whether it’s equaled with results on the field.