College football needs to place a moratorium on the use of the words loyalty and commitment.
Everybody involved, coaches, administrators and, yes, even players have ceded the right to demand it from others.
“I think what we have created is a disloyal business model,” said Gerry DiNardo, a former college football coach and current Big Ten network analyst. “I’m convinced this is no longer an educational endeavor. This is a completely business endeavor. Young coaches enter the profession now knowing they can be millionaires.”
The latest coach to toss loyalty aside to scoop up a few more million is Mel Tucker, who was hired away from Colorado by Michigan State on Wednesday.
A little more than a year ago, Colorado made Tucker a very rich man with a $14.8 million deal over five years in December 2018 to rebuild a football program that has had one winning season since joining the Pac-12 in 2011.
Tucker, 48, had been a longtime assistant in the NFL and at the highest levels of college football, working under Nick Saban at Alabama and Kirby Smart at Georgia, before becoming a head coach for the first time at Colorado.
Michigan State had Tucker on a short list of possible replacements for Mark Dantonio, who showed the extent of his loyalty to the school and players by announcing his retirement the day before a new crop of recruits signed with the Spartans — and a few weeks after receiving a $4.3 million bonus.
Tucker, realizing he wasn’t at the top of Michigan State’s list, took the opportunity to proclaim his commitment to the Buffaloes on Twitter just three days ago. He probably wasn’t going to get the job, but it benefited Tucker to let it be known he was in demand.
When Luke Fickell, choice No. 1 for Michigan State, decided he was better off staying put at Cincinnati, the Spartans circled back to Tucker. And now, a month before spring practice starts, Colorado is searching for a head coach again, trying to replace a guy who parlayed a single promising 5-7 season into six-year deal that pays $5.5 million annually.
A few months after Tucker was famously quoted saying, “There’s no transfer portal in the real world,” he went out and proved himself wrong.
“We have created this,” DiNardo said.
If you think transfers are an epidemic in college, talk to high school coaches who are regularly losing top players to local powerhouse programs or IMG Academy down in Florida. That’s business as usual these days as players and their families look out for their own best interests.
Buffaloes fans longing for the glory days of Kordell Stewart were hopeful Tucker would be the coach to crack the code to success in Boulder. It looked as if they and athletic director Rick George were ready to give Tucker time to build up the Buffs. But what would that really mean if he was still struggling to get Colorado bowl-eligible in Year 3?
Michigan State is a challenging job, too, but Big Ten membership comes with privileges the Pac-12 can’t match these days.
For George, it’s back to the well.
Follow Ralph D. Russo @ralphDrussoAP.