Mel Tucker is expected to be fired at Michigan State.
According to The Detroit Free Press, Michigan State athletic director Allen Haller informed Tucker that his contract will be terminated with cause on Sept. 26. Tucker has seven days to present a case to keep his job.
A USA Today story detailed Tucker’s alleged sexual improprieties during a phone call with Brenda Tracy, a sexual assault victims right advocate, in April, 2022.
Tucker had a 20-14 record at Michigan State – and that included a 11-2 season in 2021. That year, Tucker signed a 10-year, $95 million contract. The Spartans’ next head coach likely will come at a much lower price to start.
DECOURCY: Mel Tucker surpasses stupidity with reckless behavior
Harlon Barnett took over as interim coach in Week 3. Washington beat Michigan State 41-7, and if it continues in that direction, Barnett clearly won’t lead the team beyond this season.
Mark Dantonio – who won three Big Ten championships with the Spartans from 2007-19 – is an acting associate head coach. He likely will be involved in that search for a replacement.
Michigan State coaching candidates
Chris Klieman, Kansas State coach
Klieman, 55, won four FCS national championships with North Dakota State from 2014-18 and built Kansas State into a Big 12 championship program over the past four seasons. He is 32-21 at K-State. The Wildcats sent four players to the 2023 NFL Draft – the program’s highest total since 2003. Klieman is a no-nonsense coach with solid program-building skills, and that kind of approach could be a hit in East Lansing. This would not be a flashy hire, but then again, neither was Mark Dantonio.
MORE: SN’s team rankings, from No. 1 (Georgia) to No. 133 (Buffalo)
Mike Tressel, Wisconsin defensive coordinator
Mike Tressel, the nephew of former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, was a Michigan State assistant under Dantonio 2007-20. Dantonio, of course, was Jim Tressel’s defensive coordinator at Ohio State. That is a lot of connection if Dantonio is involved in the search for a replacement. Mike spent two seasons as Cincinnati’s defensive coordinator and joined Luke Fickell at Wisconsin this season. He’s 49 years old and has compiled a resume comparable to Dantonio, but is the lack of previous head coaching experience a factor here?
Mike Elko, Duke coach
Elko has increased his stock in a short time as the head coach at Duke. The Blue Devils are 12-4 since he took over last year after going 10-25 the three previous seasons. He’s proven adept at working the transfer portal. Elko has a few Midwest ties from his time as a Bowling Green defensive coordinator from 2009-13 and a one-year stint with Notre Dame in 2017. Elko is going to be one of the hot candidates in this coaching cycle, especially if Duke contends for an ACC championship.
BENDER: Week 4 will be the best week of the season to date | Picks against the spread
Keep an eye on …
Dave Clawson, Wake Forest coach
Elko also was with Clawson at Bowling Green and Wake Forest. What about Clawson? He’s been at Wake Forest for 10 seasons, and he led the Demon Deacons to the ACC championship game in 2021. At 62-53, Clawson is the only Wake coach since 1950 over .500. It was an incremental building process, one that would not take as long at a Big Ten school. If Clawson, 56, has another move left, then now would be the time to take it.
Charles Huff, Marshall coach
Huff is in his third season at Marshall, and he’s 18-10 with a 10-6 record in Sun Belt play. Huff led the Thundering Herd to a 26-21 upset against No. 8 Notre Dame in 2022. He was a running backs coach at Alabama under Nick Saban from 2019-20. Huff, 40, seems primed for a move to a Power 5 conference in this cycle. Michigan State would be a logical next step.
Brian Hartline, Ohio State offensive coordinator
Hartline, 36, has moved up the ranks of Ohio State’s coaching staff and was promoted to offensive coordinator this season. He’s recognized as one of the best recruiters in the country, especially with the receiver room he built. Hartline makes $1.6 million as a coordinator for the Buckeyes. He’s a buzz-worthy candidate, but would it be worth leaving the Buckeyes for another Big Ten program?
Jason Candle, Toledo coach
Candle’s stock has fluctuated with Toledo, but there are more than a few reasons to like the 46 year old coach. He’s never had a losing season with the Rockets, and he’s only had one losing season in conference play. Toledo won MAC championships in 2017 and 2022. Candle has developed nine NFL Draft picks during his time with the program and has strong recruiting connections on both sides of the Ohio-Michigan border.
Will Deion Sanders take Michigan State job?
Imagine Sanders in East Lansing. He could follow in Saban’s footsteps. He could work the transfer portal much like Tucker did in 2021. He could build a College Football Playoff-caliber team in a hurry, especially with the upcoming 12-team format.
Sanders has a five-year, $29 million contract with Colorado. The Spartans could double that, and this would erase the sting of Tucker’s deal.
The Big Ten offers a larger stage for Coach Prime, and he would get to take on the established powers at Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State. Will this happen? It seems unlikely, but Colorado offensive coordinator Sean Lewis – a 37-year-old former Kent State OC who played at Wisconsin – is another candidate worth watching. Lewis might turn out to be the best name on this list given the bump that comes with running the Colorado offense.