A look at Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker’s contract as he looks to lead the Spartans to a win over Michigan for the third year in a row.
The second full year of the Mel Tucker era at Michigan State hasn’t gone quite according to plan, though the Spartans are coming off a double OT win over Wisconsin followed by a bye week. MSU is just 3-4 overall and 1-3 in the Big Ten, and it’s not getting any easier from here, either. The Spartans are in Ann Arbor on Saturday for a rivalry game against No. 4 Michigan.
And while Michigan State went from unranked to top-10 last year, complete with a win over the Wolverines, the expectations for the program will never be truly realistic under Tucker. The university signed its head coach to a massive extension in 2021, making him one of the highest-paid coaches in the game.
What does that updated contract guarantee Tucker, and what would the Spartans have to pay if they choose to fire him? Let’s dive in.
Mel Tucker Contract Overview at Michigan State
Signed: Nov. 24, 2021
Term: Until Jan. 15, 2032
Base Salary: $5,900,000
Mel Tucker’s Additional Compensation
Tucker will make an additional $3,100,000 in salary per year for media appearances, paid in monthly installments. This does not include an annual payment of $100,000 paid from the school’s deal with Nike and a $400,000 retention bonus. All together, that means Tucker will make $9.5 million per season during his deal, guaranteed as long as he remains head coach for the year.
For context, here’s how that compares to other coaches whose contracts Boardroom has analyzed so far this season:
- Nick Saban: $9,900,000
- Mel Tucker: $9,500,000
- Jimbo Fisher: $9,000,000
- Jim Harbaugh: $7,050,000
- Kirk Ferentz: $7,000,000
- Bryan Harsin: $5,100,000
- Karl Dorrell*: $3,600,000
- Mike Norvell: $3,250,000
*coach has since been fired
Mel Tucker Buyout Details
If the university chooses to fire Tucker for cause, it will owe him his entire non-performance-related salary. That means $9.5 million per year, through the term of the contract (2032). Tucker, however, must make a reasonable effort to seek other employment. The salary from his new job, if he finds one, would be deducted from the amount that Michigan State owes him.
Tucker currently has nine years left on his deal after this one, so if he is fired at the end of the season (extremely unlikely considering the year the Spartans just had), he would be set to make up to $85.5 million over the next decade.
On the other hand, there’s always the possibility that Tucker accepts a job elsewhere — again, not likely because this new employer would probably have to pay eight figures. But if it happens, Tucker would owe the university a buyout on the following schedule:
- $2,000,000 if he terminates employment before Jan. 15, 2023
- $1,500,000 if he terminates between Jan. 16, 2023 and Jan. 15, 2024
- $1,000,000 if he terminates after Jan. 15, 2024
Tucker’s bonus structure is nothing out of the ordinary. He’s set to earn hundreds of thousands (or more) depending on how well the Spartans perform on the field. Here’s how it breaks down:
- $200,000 for a Big Ten divisional championship and appearance in the conference title game
- $200,000 for winning the Big Ten championship game
- $25,000 for winning Big Ten Coach of the Year
- $50,000 for winning a national Coach of the Year award
- $125,000 for a non-New Year’s Six bowl OR $250,000 for a New Year’s Six bowl (excluding the College Football Playoff)
- $275,000 for an appearance in the CFP AND $300,000 for each additional CFP game played (keep this in mind when the playoff likely expands soon. In that event, any byes Michigan State may earn would count as a game played)
- $500,000 for winning the National Championship
This means that in the best-case scenario for the Spartans, which would mean winning the Big Ten championship and national championship, with a pair of Coach of the Year awards for Tucker along the way, the coach would earn $1.55 million — more if that perfect season happens after the CFP expands.
If he was coaching under the above bonus structure last season, he would have earned $25,000 for winning Big Ten Coach of the Year and $250,000 for taking his team to the Peach Bowl.
Special Allowances & Perks
In addition to Tucker’s pay, he is afforded the usual list of perks, including:
- A course fee credit for Tucker’s wife and children
- Use of two automobiles
- Membership at a country club of Tucker’s choice in addition to the Michigan Athletic Club and University Club of Michigan
- Six complimentary football tickets, four tickets to MSU hockey games, and four tickets to all men’s and women’s basketball games. After Tucker is done coaching, he will also receive four tickets for every home football game for the rest of his life.
- Four seats on the program team plane and two hotel rooms for all postseason games in addition to plane seats for Tucker’s wife and children
- Use of a private plane for personal travel, up to 50 hours per year
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