Mel Tucker has left Colorado for Michigan State, and though he’s now in the process of exchanging his black and gold for green and white, those in Colorado are still grappling with a guy who’d told them literally hours ago that he’s committed to their program has now bolted under the cover of night.
Coaches leave jobs all the time, but the timing and nature of Tucker’s departure is different.
It’s not every year that a coach leaves one Power 5 head coaching job for another after Signing Day.
It’s not every year a coach climbs on a soap box to say how the real world doesn’t have a transfer portal, then transfers to another job four months later.
It’s not every year that a coach fields interest from a suitor, turns it down, and then spins that flirtation into a positive media tour — Tucker did multiple radio shows on Tuesday and hit up CU donors for money on Tuesday night — then leaves.
While I am flattered to be considered for the HC job @MSU_football, I am committed to @CUBuffsFootball for #TheBuild of our program, its great athletes, coaches & supporters. #UnfinishedBusiness #GoBuffs
— Mel Tucker (@Coach_mtucker) February 8, 2020
Plenty of people have weighed in on Tucker’s departure, including one of the biggest, most well-known voices in the sport.
“I am pissed off about that,” Chris Fowler said of Tucker’s departure on an Instagram video Wednesday. “It stings.”
Fowler often gets candid with his 36,000 Instagram followers, and on Wednesday oscillated between his two identities as ESPN’s lead college football play-by-play voice and as a Colorado alum, literally popping on a CU hat to symbolize the alternating perspectives in which he views the move.
Wearing his Buffs hat, Fowler dug into why Tucker’s departure hits Colorado especially hard beyond the Now, really? timing.
Colorado took a chance on Tucker in making him a first-time head coach, and Tucker rewarded that faith by parlaying his one season of experience into the same job at what is nominally a peer institution. Colorado put every egg it had in Tucker’s basket, and Tucker took all the eggs and the basket with him to East Lansing, putting CU back at square one.
“When you leave a program that has sustained success, the beat goes on,” Fowler said. “You find a new coach and keep going. When you leave a program that’s struggled for consistent success, you have to sell a vision. You have to sell a belief. You have to ask players and sometimes assistants to leaps of faith to go with you: ‘We’re heading in a positive direction. I’m selling you this vision that I’m giving you and you’re buying it.’ And then the vision is gone with the coach.”
Now, if you’re Michigan State, it matters not to you that Colorado is (justifiably) miffed and hurt at the way your coach left his last job. If Tucker shocks the world and goes 11-1 next season en route to a Hall of Fame career, his entire Colorado tenure will become but a footnote in an otherwise triumphant story.
There’s a small chance the above happens, but a chance nonetheless.
Tucker has a better job with a better salary, and the choices he made to get there will follow him for some time.