I’ve been (justifiably) tough on Mel Tucker’s actions before accepting the Michigan State job, but not in accepting that massive contract offer and I’ll defend him in his first act on the job.

According to Chris Solari of the Detroit Free Press, Tucker has opted not to retain any of the assistants on Mark Dantonio’s staff.

That’s undeniably a tough thing for those assistants and their families, but Tucker is not the villain here. He’s the head coach. The Michigan State administration has entrusted him to revive the Spartan football program, and he’s well within his rights to build his staff with whoever he deems necessary to accomplish the mission.

It’s brutal, but it’s part of the business.

No, the person whom Michigan State’s (now former) assistant coaches should direct their anger is their former boss, Mark Dantonio.

Had Dantonio stepped down in December, Michigan State’s assistants would have joined the job market at its opening, not its closing. There are jobs available today, yes, but not nearly as many as there were 10 weeks ago.

In retiring when he did, Dantonio tasked his assistants to play a game of musical chairs not when the chairs have been filled, but after the game’s over and the chairs have been stacked against the wall.

The same reasoning applies to people who argued Michigan State should release its 22 signees out of their letters of intent — to go where? Just as the new Spartans learned their head coach wouldn’t be their head coach, everyone else was filling the last of their open scholarships for the 2020 class.

There is no doubt Dantonio would object to this framing, that he — by intent or not — put his own assistants and signees behind the 8-ball in retiring the day before Signing Day 2.0. As he said last Tuesday, the first week of February is the “reset” portion of the schedule, the New Year’s Day of the college football calendar.

Dantonio was loyal to a fault as a head coach, controversially retaining each of his offensive assistants and switching their job titles in an effort to shake up Michigan State’s stagnant offense between the 2018 and ’19 seasons when other head coaches might’ve cleaned house. In retrospect, maybe those assistants now wish he would have. That half-measure failed — all half-measures ultimately do — which led to Dantonio’s retirement in the first place.

In Dantonio’s mind, he was doing his assistants a solid by retiring when he did. Mike Tressel was appointed interim head coach, and from the outside it appears Dantonio attempted to force the administration’s hand into giving Tressel the full-time gig by stepping down on Feb. 4 as opposed to Dec. 4.

That gamble failed, though, and now his assistants will pay the price.

SHARE
National columnist - Zach joined the staff in 2012...and has been attempting to improve Doug and Scott's writing ability ever since (to little avail). Outside of football season, you can find him watching the San Antonio Spurs reading Game of Thrones fan theories.