The Mel Tucker era is over at Michigan State as the school announced Monday that it has begun the process of firing the third-year football coach for cause. Long-time secondary coach Harlon Barnett is expected to serve out this year as interim head coach, and SportsLine offers odds on Tucker's eventual full-time replacement in 2024 – for which Barnett will be considered if MSU finishes the season strong.
Because the school fired Tucker for cause as a result of an ongoing sexual harassment investigation, it would not have to pay off the remaining salary on the shocking 10-year, $95 million deal Tucker got after leading Michigan State to a surprising 11-2 record in 2021 on the back of running back and Heisman candidate Kenneth Walker III. Michigan State backslid last year to 5-7 and likely is looking at a similar record this year. The Spartans were trounced at home by Washington this past Saturday in Barnett's first game as interim coach.
Michigan State is likely not going to go out and pay one of the biggest salaries in the nation again. The school just doesn't work that way, and the only reason Tucker got such a massive deal is that a couple of big-time boosters, including new Phoenix Suns owner Mat Ishbia, stepped up to keep LSU from possibly hiring Tucker.
MSU hiring Tucker after one 5-7 season at Colorado was a surprise in itself, but the school tends to look off the radar. Thus, Spartans fans can probably forget about Urban Meyer or Deion Sanders… but maybe not Sanders' first-year offensive coordinator Sean Lewis or Buffs offensive consultant Pat Shurmur, who is a Michigan State alum and former Cleveland Browns and New York Giants coach who was in the mix when Tucker was fired hired.
State did well many years ago when it hired a former Toledo head coach in Nick Saban, and current Rockets coach Jason Candle likely will get a call. He was promoted from offensive coordinator to be current Iowa State coach Matt Campbell's successor late in 2015 and has gone 55-33 since with two MAC championships. Candle would be hard pressed to turn down the job. Campbell can't be ruled out himself, as he might have hit a ceiling in Ames.
What Candle lacks is power conference experience, which Kansas' Lance Leipold has; he also had previous success in the MAC with Buffalo. Would Leipold want to leave a good situation, even at a basketball school? Speaking of basketball schools, would Mike Elko leave Duke even though he just got a nice extension?
Pittsburgh's Pat Narduzzi makes a lot of sense because he served as the Michigan State defensive coordinator from 2007-14 and has done a fine job at Pitt. Narduzzi would be a safe if not exciting hire. Wisconsin defensive coordinator Mike Tressel was previously an assistant with the Spartans for more than a decade.
The most exciting candidate out there from an offensive standpoint could be Ohio State offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach Brian Hartline, who has helped turn OSU into Wide Receiver U thanks to his recruiting and coaching. He may not want to leave his alma mater for another Big Ten school and has no head coaching experience.
As for Barnett's chances, they didn't improve with this past Saturday's 41-7 blowout loss, although it was against a stellar opponent in then-No. 8 Washington and in a really tough spot.
It's possible that Michigan State (2-1) isn't favored the rest of the way, as it's a 7-point home underdog to Maryland this Saturday and the schedule only gets harder after that. MSU has an updated over/under win total of 3.5.
Via SportsLine oddsmakers: Who will be Michigan State's football coach for the 2024 opener?
- Jason Candle +400
- Pat Narduzzi +450
- Matt Campbell +500
- Lance Leipold +600
- Pat Shurmur +700
- Jim Leonhard +800
- Mike Tressel +800
- Chris Kleiman +900
- Harlon Barnett +1000
- Brian Hartline +1200
- Mike Elko +1300
- PJ Fleck +1400
- Sean Lewis +1500
- Jonathan Smith +1800
- Mark Stoops +2000
- Mark Dantonio +3000
Get more out of your SportsLine subscription!
- Picks: NFL | NBA | CFB | CBB
- DFS: Lineup Optimizer | Picks
- Early Edge: YouTube | Apple Podcasts
- Newsletters: SportsLine Daily | Fantasy
Qualifying SportsLine members receive a 30-day free trial of Paramount+ premium. Sync your account right here.
Share This Story