The night of Tuesday, February 11, 2020, was supposed to be a typical Tuesday night. The Colorado Buffaloes football team thought their coach, Mel Tucker, was committed to the program. However, in a blink of an eye, Tucker was off to East Lansing, Michigan, to take over as the new head football coach of the Michigan State Spartans.
Mel Tucker stated his commitment over the weekend to the CU football program. He was one of the first names to be rumored in Michigan State’s coaching search. Mark Dantonio resigned on February 4. For the next week, the Buffaloes thought they were keeping their coach. However, the Michigan State athletic department then offered Mel Tucker a contract that would have been hard for anyone to refuse.
A double salary and more football resources were simply too much to pass up. Tucker started his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Michigan State under Nick Saban. Michigan State has been in the news because of the Larry Nassar scandal among other controversies surrounding the university. Money talks.
Did The Pac-12 Financial Crisis Play a Part in Mel Tucker’s Exit?
Colorado Buffaloes Fans Have Right to Be Mad About Mel Tucker Leaving
Colorado fans have every right to feel cheated by Tucker. He reaffirmed his commitment to the Buffaloes’ program on numerous occasions in the week leading up to his hiring at MSU. He was spotted at a CU Buff Club donor event with a big smile on his face. The CU Buff Club has deleted that tweet, however. Tucker had a huge smile on his face in the picture.
Do not let that smile be deceiving, however. Leaving CU was very hard for Tucker, as he said in his statement when he accepted the Michigan State job. Fans still have every right to be hurt, disappointed, and frustrated because he had given them hope. There were many analogies made on social media for the abrupt way that Tucker left the Buffaloes the night of February 11. Fans and media were both distraught over Tucker leaving.
Recruits Show Commitment to Colorado Buffaloes In Wake of Mel Tucker Leaving
This shock will stick with Colorado Buffaloes fans for a long time, as it should. However, there were many within the recruiting class that affirmed their commitment to the Buffaloes for the upcoming season.
However, the players from the incoming recruiting class could be released from their national letters of intent. The players cannot just leave though. The school has to release the players from their letters of intent. The Buffaloes will probably grant requests due to the circumstances surrounding potential requests. It will be interesting to see which Buffaloes’ recruits stay and which may transfer.
“No Transfer Portals in the Real World”
Back in 2019, after safety Aaron Maddox and tight end Darrion Jones entered the transfer portal and left the CU football program, Tucker made his most hypocritical claim during his time with the Buffs.
“There are no transfer portals in the real world,” he said.
This comment Tucker made completely legitimizes the harsh comments that have been tossed his way in the days following his decision to bolt for East Lansing. He transferred jobs, albeit to a job that was giving him significantly more resources. He bolted something he had committed to for the next five years. While coaches may take better jobs after a few years with a program, Tucker was able to get one after one losing season with the Buffaloes.
Where Do the Colorado Buffaloes Look For Their Next Head Coach?
Rick George, the Buffaloes athletic director, has stated he wants the next head coach to “share his commitment” to the Colorado Buffaloes. With a shared commitment, the common goal of getting CU football back to national relevance could become a reality. One coach that has shown that unwavering commitment is interim head coach Darrin Chiaverini. However, Chiaverini showed his struggles as offensive coordinator when Mike MacIntyre was the head coach in Boulder.
Other coaches the Buffaloes will look to consider for the job include Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. However, it is tough to see Bieniemy leave a situation where he has Patrick Mahomes as his quarterback.
There are outside-the-box candidates, such as Jim Leavitt, the Buffaloes’ defensive coordinator during their 10-4 season in 2016, who might get consideration. Could the Buffaloes go as far as interviewing former CSU head coach Jim McElwain? The Buffaloes have not contacted him yet, and the CSU connection may stray the Buffaloes away from potentially hiring him.
The University of Colorado and the Value of Football
When Mel Tucker got his five-year contract with the Buffaloes, it was not unanimously approved by university regents. It is also likely that the next coach’s contract will also not be unanimously approved. While the concerns for football are real, it is a major revenue generator for universities.
Because of these concerns, the question of if Colorado Buffaloes football can become a powerhouse like they were in the 1990s, is a real one. Getting back to that standing is a long, arduous process that a new coach will have to take on. The next coach will have to show an unwavering commitment to the football program. Mel Tucker got Buffaloes fans enthusiastic about the program, and the next coach will have to carry that enthusiasm into the 2020 season and beyond.