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If all goes as planned, Mel Tucker will become the highest-paid coach in the Big Ten. And Michigan State will make a major show of strength that it plans to be a significant spender in college football in the next decade.
MSU is preparing a historic $95 million, 10-year contract extension for Tucker to remain with the Spartans, university sources confirmed to the Free Press on Wednesday. The 49-year-old Cleveland native is set to become among the highest-paid coaches in the country.
Alumni Mat Ishbia and Steve St. Andre will donate the private funding to the university for Tucker’s raise reworked contract, according to "Inside the Locker Room" podcast hosts Brian Mosallam, a former MSU Board of Trustee member, and MSU radio analyst Jason Strayhorn. University sources confirmed Ishbia and St. Andre as the donors for the new contract.
The deal surpasses the estimated $7 million contract of Penn State’s James Franklin that is the highest salary in the Big Ten in 2021, according to a USA TODAY salary database. Only former MSU coach Nick Saban at Alabama ($9.753 million) is making more this season than Tucker will under his reworked contract, according to the database. LSU's Ed Orgeron is the second-highest-paid coach in college football this year at $9.012 million. However, Orgeron and the school reached a separation agreement that forces him out at the end of this season.
Tucker became a potential target for the LSU job according to an Oct. 16 report by Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman, hours before the Spartans played at Indiana and a day before Orgeron officially was terminated. That was a big reason for the push by MSU to rework his deal and lock up Tucker long-term.
Tucker's $5.632 million in total compensation this season was fourth among Big Ten coaches and 13th nationally, according to USA TODAY. The Spartans lured Tucker from Colorado in February 2020 after Mark Dantonio’s sudden retirement. Despite going just 5-7 in his only season with the Buffaloes, MSU gave Tucker a six-year contract that more than doubled the $2.4 million he made at Colorado.
It is not clear if Tucker's assistant coaches salary pool - $6 million according to the contract he signed in 2020 — will increase under this new contract.
Ishbia, a walk-on member of the Spartans’ 2000 national championship basketball team and a 2003 graduate of MSU’s Eli Broad College of Business, is chairman, president and CEO of United Wholesale Mortgage, which went public in January. The 41-year-old also made a $32 million cash donation in February to help construct a new football facility.
St. Andre is the founder of Shift Digital, a marketing firm that creates websites and other digital tools for auto dealerships, automotive manufacturers and other clients. The 49-year-old MSU marketing graduate previously worked for eight years as president and CEO of Ford Direct and was part of the startup team that created FordDirect.com.
The new deal would make Tucker the highest-paid Black head coach in American sports, passing Stanford's David Shaw, according to USA TODAY records. The Pittsburgh Steelers’ Mike Tomlin is making $8 million as the highest-paid Black coach in the NFL, while Doc Rivers of the Philadelphia 76ers is the highest-paid Black coach in the NBA at $8 million.
Only three NFL coaches in 2021 are making more than Tucker's new deal: New England's Bill Belichick ($12.5 million), Seattle's Pete Carroll ($11 million) and New Orleans' Sean Payton ($9.8 million). San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich ($11 million) is the only other NBA coach making more than Tucker.
In college basketball, Providence's Ed Cooley at $3.4 million a year was the highest-paid Black head coach in 2020-21 according to a USA TODAY salary database. Cooley ranked 19th nationally, MSU's Tom Izzo ($3.984 million) ranked seventh in total compensation, while Kentucky's John Calipari was No. 1 at $8.095 million.
Cleveland's Terry Francona ($4.2 million) is the highest-paid manager in Major League Baseball, and Florida's Joel Quenneville at $5.25 million was the NHL's highest-paid coach until he resigned late last month.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan State working on $95 million extension for Mel Tucker