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New CU head football coach has agreed to a five-year contract worth $14.75 million, plus incentives. Here is his annual base salary:
Mel Tucker knows what it takes to win at the highest level of college football and play on the sports’ biggest stage.
Colorado used to know that feeling, but it’s been a while, and the Buffaloes are now turning to Tucker to get them back there.
Tucker, who has been the defensive coordinator at Georgia the last three seasons, was officially announced as the new head coach of the Buffaloes on Wednesday. CU will hold an introductory press conference on Thursday.
The 26th full-time head coach in CU history, Tucker has been hired to replace Mike MacIntyre, who was fired Nov. 18 after going 30-44 in nearly six full seasons in Boulder.
“Colorado has always been a place that I thought should be relevant in the national championship conversation year-in and year-out, because of its tradition and a seemingly endless list of what the school has to offer,” Tucker said in a CU press release. “What we have to offer are some of the best facilities in the country, strong academics, and an amazing environment as a whole. Colorado should be a ‘no excuse’ program. There’s absolutely no reason we can’t achieve success at an extremely high level.”
Tucker, 46, agreed to a five-year, $14.75 million contract, which must be approved by the CU Board of Regents, who will meet Dec. 12 to vote on the contract. Tucker will make $2.4 million in the first year of the deal and will receive a $275,000 raise annually. There are also several incentives written into the contract.
“If you go back to last month when I talked about what I wanted in our next head coach, you’ll find that Mel checks all those boxes,” athletic director Rick George said in the press release. “He has great experience and a terrific pedigree; I like the way he coaches football, his toughness and accountability. Those are the things we were looking for.
“He’s a great recruiter; just look at the No. 1 draft picks he’s recruited and signed. That’s important. Mel is someone who will relate to the players and is a well-organized, strong administrator. He played the game; he went to Wisconsin and was an accomplished player who had a shot to go to the NFL. (Alabama head coach) Nick Saban hired him three times for a reason; the guy’s really good. People will love him. He’s a family guy and integrity is really important to him.”
Tucker played at Wisconsin for legendary Badgers coach Barry Alvarez in the early 1990s.
Throughout his coaching career, Tucker has worked at the highest levels of college football and has been a part of two national championship teams, at Ohio State in 2002 and Alabama in 2015.
During the past three years, he has helped Georgia to a 32-9 record and back-to-back SEC East division titles.
Last year at Georgia, Tucker’s defense ranked sixth nationally in points and yards allowed, as he helped the Bulldogs to the SEC championship and a trip to the national championship game. The Bulldogs (13-2) lost to Alabama, 26-23 in overtime, of the title game.
This year, Georgia ranks 15th nationally in points allowed and 13th in yards allowed, as he has helped the Bulldogs (11-2) narrowly miss another spot in the College Football Playoff. Georgia finished No. 5 in the CFP rankings, one spot out of the national semifinals, after a 35-28 loss to No. 1 Alabama in the SEC championship last Saturday.
“All of Mel’s experience as a player and coach will serve him well in Boulder,” George said. “We want to consistently compete for and win championships. There’s no learning curve with Mel. He’s been in the business. We want to consistently win, graduate our student-athletes and help them make that next step in their lives. We brought him in because we have a great freshman and sophomore class, and another solid recruiting class in the works. We brought him here to win now, and I truly believe Mel will make us a winner next year.”
In addition to his time in college, Tucker has extensive experience in the NFL, coaching with the Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars and Chicago Bears from 2005-14.
This will be Tucker’s first full-time head coaching job, but in 2011, he led the Jaguars for five games as interim coach. He has reportedly interviewed for college head coaching jobs during the past few offseasons, including at Tennessee a year ago.
A native of Cleveland, Tucker will begin working at CU immediately and will not coach Georgia in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1.
Tucker takes over a CU program that has posted back-to-back 5-7 seasons and has played in just one bowl game (in 2016) in the last 11 years.
During Tucker’s playing days, however, CU was one of the nation’s elite programs and he aims to get the Buffs back there.
“I’m excited, my family is excited and we’ve been associated with some very good programs, winning national championships at Ohio State and Alabama with a lot of success elsewhere along the way,” he said. “There’s no reason we can’t experience the same at Colorado. It is a sleeping giant.
“My plan is to continue to restore that tradition and make sure that Colorado once again becomes an elite national program. There’s not a better place in America to live, to coach and go to school.”
Mel Tucker bio
Age: 46 (turns 47 on Jan. 4)
Current position: Defensive coordinator, Georgia Bulldogs
Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio
College: Wisconsin, 1995
Family: Wife, Jo-Ellyn, and sons Joseph and Christian
1997-98: Michigan State (grad assistant)
1999: Miami-Ohio (DBs)
2000: LSU (DBs)
2001-03: Ohio State (DBs)
2004: Ohio State (co-defensive coordinator/DBs)
2005-07: Cleveland Browns (DBs)
2008: Cleveland Browns (defensive coordinator)
2009-12: Jacksonville Jaguars (defensive coordinator)
2013-14: Chicago Bears (defensive coordinator)
2015: Alabama (DBs)
2016-present: Georgia (defensive coordinator/DBs)
Notable: Went 2-3 as the interim head coach of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars at the end of the 2011 season. … Tucker worked for current Alabama head coach Nick Saban three different times: 1997-98 at Michigan State, 2000 at LSU and 2015 at Alabama. … He helped Ohio State to the BCS national championship in 2002 and Alabama to the national title in 2015. … As a player, he was a four-year letterman as a defensive back at Wisconsin; he helped the Badgers win the Rose Bowl in 1993.