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AP photo by Carlos Osorio / Michigan State football coach Mel Tucker talks to his players during a Big Ten game against Maryland on Nov. 13, in East Lansing, Mich.

Michigan State is giving Mel Tucker a $95 million, 10-year contract, making an aggressive move to keep a football coach who potentially could have left for the Southeastern Conference's LSU or the NFL.

"I am honored to be a part of the Spartan process today, and for years to come," Tucker wrote Wednesday in a post on Twitter.

The 12th-ranked Spartans (9-2, 6-2 Big Ten) close the regular season against Penn State (7-4, 4-4) at home Saturday.

Tucker's contract establishes him one of the riches coaches in college football. Only Alabama's Nick Saban, one of his mentors, who makes $9,753,221 a year, is paid more on an annual basis, according to the USA Today coaches' salaries database.

Tucker's 10-year deal puts him in select company with two coaches with the same term: Clemson's Dabo Swinney and Texas A&M's Jimbo Fisher. Swinney's contract is worth $92 million, while Fisher's deal will pay him more than $9 plus million a year, starting in 2022.

Tucker's deal that expires Jan. 15, 2032, will have a $5.9 million base salary, $3.2 million in supplemental compensation for media and personal appearances along with a $400,000 contingent annual bonus.

"We're excited to have Mel here for the next 10 years," United Wholesale Mortgage president and CEO Mat Ishbia, one of the donors funding Tucker's new deal, told AP in a telephone interview. "He's a winner. He represents Michigan State in a fantastic way, and we're excited for the future.

"We got a winner and we're not letting a winner leave Michigan State. Mel didn't want to leave, but the reality is he's the hottest name in football."

Steve St. Andre, the founder and CEO of marketing company Shift Digital, is the other donor making the raise possible.

The 49-year-old Tucker is getting a boost in pay as part of a long-term deal because of what he has done so far, and what has happened in the past at Michigan State.

After winning just two games in his debut during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, Tucker has led one of college football's most surprising teams. The Spartans started the season unranked and overlooked but now have a chance to win 10 games and earn a spot in a New Year's Six bowl game. No. 2 Ohio State did show Tucker's team how far it has to go in last week's 56-7 win that ended the Spartans' championship hopes in the Big Ten and beyond.

Michigan State was very motivated to give Tucker every reason to stay after losing Saban to LSU in November 1999.

Tucker was a graduate assistant at Michigan State for Saban during the 1997 and 1978 seasons, when he made $400 a week and slept under a desk hoping the head coach would be impressed by his dedication.

Even before LSU announced it was parting ways with Ed Orgeron after this season, Tucker was mentioned as a candidate in part because he coached the Tigers' defensive backs under Saban in 2000 and has an impressive resumé with stints on staffs at Ohio State and Georgia.

Tucker's ties to the NFL also made it likely that teams with coaching openings in the league would try to pry him away this winter. Tucker was 2-3 a decade ago as interim coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, for whom he was defensive coordinator, a role he also had with his hometown Cleveland Browns and the Chicago Bears in his 10 seasons on NFL sidelines.

 

Flames keep Freeze

Liberty and football coach Hugh Freeze have agreed to a contract extension that will keep him with the Flames through 2028, the school announced Wednesday. A person familiar with the deal said Freeze will be paid an average of more than $4 million a year over the life of the contract, making him one of the highest-paid coaches at a Group of Five conference program.

The Flames have competed as an independent since making the jump to the Football Bowl Subdivision in 2018, but they will move to Conference USA for the 2023 season.

With the early signing period in December, Freeze said it certainly makes the extension more pertinent. The 52-year-old former Ole Miss coach said it takes him out of the conversations about other coaching openings and the potential that schools would target him.

Freeze said when his name surfaces in coaching searches, it is a compliment "to being successful and to what our kids and staff have done here."

The Flames (7-4) have compiled a 25-10 record since Freeze took over three years ago.

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