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Michigan State Spartans football team hires away Mel Tucker from Colorado Buffaloes

New Michigan State football coach Mel Tucker hugs his wife, JoEllyn, as he is introduced at a news conference Wednesday in East Lansing. (AP photo)

EAST LANSING — Mel Tucker recalled making $400 a month when he began his career as a graduate assistant at Michigan State, sleeping under his desk hoping to be noticed when coach Nick Saban walked in or out of the building.

Two-plus decades later, Tucker is back to lead the Spartans and he won’t have to sleep on the floor.

Tucker signed a six-year deal worth $5.5 million per season, more than doubling the total compensation from his contract at Colorado, to lead Michigan State’s football program. He made the jump to the Spartans after a single season leading the Buffaloes, who went 5-7.

“Leaving Colorado was the toughest thing that I’ve ever done in my career, in my life, actually,” Tucker said Wednesday night. “But this is the right time for me to be here and that’s really what it comes down to. The commitment is here. The resources are here.”

Michigan State landed a leader with extensive experience and ties to the school after appearing to be interested in coaches including Luke Fickell, Robert Saleh and Pat Shurmur.

Tucker said Michigan State showed interest in him late last week and the feeling was mutual. He said there was a time in the process, which was filled with a lot of “great candidates,” that he decided to take a step back.

“The search continued and circled back to me,” Tucker said.

Tucker replaces Mark Dantonio, who retired two weeks ago after 13 mostly successful seasons.

“Mel brings a championship pedigree, NFL experience, connections to our region, success on the recruiting trail and head coaching experience to our program,” athletic director Bill Beekman said.

Colorado hired Tucker in December 2018, and gave him an opportunity to run the Pac-12 program after he was Georgia’s defensive coordinator. He was given a five-year, $14.75 million contract to lead the Buffaloes, and they matched their 5-7 record from each of the previous two years.