It took Michigan State University two weeks and $100,000 to complete its search for a new head football coach after Mark Dantonio resigned Feb. 4.
But the costs associated with hiring Mel Tucker away from the University of Colorado will continue, and have already garnered criticism.
First, as mlive.com reported, a contract obtained via a records request shows that search firm DHR International charged Michigan State $100,000 to identify Tucker, who began his coaching career in East Lansing as a graduate assistant.
The agreement between Michigan State and DHR has a guarantee that states if the person hired leaves the job or is fired within two years of the date they were hired, DHR will conduct the search again for free. There’s also language in the contract for Michigan State, at its discretion, to pay an option bonus if the search is “deemed impactful to Michigan State University and the future of their football program.”
According to CBS Sports and USA Today figures cited by mlive, fees paid to search firms average around $70,000 nationwide — though Texas shelled out nearly $267,000 for the search that netted Charlie Strong in 2014. Strong was fired after three seasons with the Longhorns.
By waiting until after Jan. 15 to resign, Dantonio collected $4.5 million as part of what amounts to a "loyalty bonus" in his MSU contract.
But the financial problems for MSU didn't end there, according to best-selling sports author John Bacon. A Bacon column posted by Michigan's National Public Radio affiliate, takes aim at the ascension of Bill Beekman, a former Board of Trustees secretary with no experience in athletics, to the position of athletic director once highly respected Mark Hollis resigned amid the Larry Nassar abuse scandal.
Beekman's inexperience, even with the help of DHR, has proven costly. According to contract terms released Thursday, Tucker, with only one 5-7 season as a head coach under his belt, will receive at least $5.5 million annually over the course of the six-year deal. That's more than Dantonio was making despite his status as the winningest coach in MSU history over his 13 years there. It should be noted that initially Tucker was among several candidates who turned down the MSU job, but later cashed in on the Spartans growing desperation.
"Beekman backed up the Brink’s Truck, and offered to double Tucker’s salary, and his budget for assistant coaches. It worked. Tucker accepted, and Beekman was off the hook — even if State paid twice the market value for their new coach," Bacon writes. "Perhaps we should point out that just because you pay a man five million dollars, doesn’t mean he’s worth it.
"Will Tucker succeed? Who knows? He has no experience, either.
"Really, we only know this: Beekman’s ineptitude made Tucker very rich."
The whole scenario underscores issues of competitive imbalance in college football, according to Dan Wolken of USA Today, who writes, "It would be impossible to let this particular money grab pass without noting that it came on the same day several college athletics leaders — including NCAA president Mark Emmert and Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby — went in front of a Senate subcommittee to argue that more money for athletes through name, image and likeness rights could create a competitive imbalance.
"Earth to Mark and Bob: Your sport is already there."