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Retired All-Pro WR lights up Mel Tucker for abruptly leaving Colorado

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It’s tough to blame Mel for the decision, but his players aren’t happy about it.

Colorado V Utah Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images

Alabama fans remember Mel Tucker as the defensive backs coach who successfully moved Eddie Jackson to safety, and also for being the only on-field assistant to depart with Kirby Smart to Georgia. Following a couple of successful seasons as the defensive coordinator in Athens, he was hired at Colorado to kick off his head coaching career, and in his inaugural season put up a 5-7 record.

That was enough for a Michigan State administration that was rather desperate after being turned down by several suitors with a potential NCAA investigation looming. They reached out to Tucker last week for an interview, after which Tucker withdrew his name from consideration and announced that he would be returning to Colorado.

Alas, as any good college football fan knows, things can change in an instant.

Michigan State circled the wagons and made a second run at Mel with a bigger pile of cash, and this time it was enough. The Spartans will reportedly pay Tucker “more than double” his current salary of $2.4 million per year. Assuming the pay lands somewhere around $5 million annually, Tucker will be paid among the top 20 coaches in the country despite a lifetime 5-7 record as a head man. Yes, Michigan State is that desperate.

Players and their families are rarely pleased when a coach leaves abruptly, but the fact that Tucker reneged on his announcement adds to the pain, and Mel’s comment last year that “there’s no transfer portal in the real world” is coming back to bite him. As luck would have it, one of Colorado’s 2020 signees, LB Toren Pittman, is the grandson of Dallas Cowboys great WR Drew Pearson. Drew is not happy.

Hoo, boy.

It’s easy to see both sides of the coin here. Tucker is doubling his salary, and that would be tough to turn down for anyone. On the other side, leaving a Power Five job for greener pastures after only one season is unusual, and it will be difficult to respond to critics who use the timeline of events to suggest that Mel is solely doing it for the money. Coaches regularly turn down big raises to stay in a comfortable situation, and you can bet that rival coaches will use this against Mel on the recruiting trail.

This is an ugly situation all the way around. Good luck, Mel.