When it came to sneaky, back-stabbing, weasel-like moves by football coaches in Boulder, Buffs fans always loved to hate the same two guys. They were public enemies No. 1A and 1B at CU.
Rick Neuheisel skipped town after the 1998 season, taking the glossy 33-14 record he built with Bill McCartney’s recruits and parlaying it into a higher-paying gig at Washington. As a result, he’ll always be “Slick Rick” in Colorado.
Butch Jones accepted the job in 2013, agreeing to leave Cincinnati for the Buffaloes. But before he signed the contract, the coach used CU as leverage to get a sweeter deal at Tennessee. Now, he’ll forever be mocked for hiding behind a food cart at Folsom Field during his interview in Boulder.
Those two coaches have competition now, however. In fact, they may have been supplanted atop the list of most-disliked coaches who have ever came in contact with the CU program.
After just one season with the Buffaloes, Mel Tucker has decided to leave Colorado to take the head coach position at Michigan State. In the process, he’s burned every bridge in the Centennial State.
It’s not that Tucker left. After all, any objective observer would admit that the Spartans have a better football program than the Buffaloes.
It’s how he left that will forever tick off CU fans.
Last Friday night, rumors surfaced that Tucker was in the running for the job. That was disappointing, given than he seemingly just got to town and just two nights earlier was celebrating his latest recruiting class with Buffs faithful. But it was understandable, as everyone is looking to better their career when possible.
On Saturday, however, Tucker and athletic director Rick George each issued statements about the situation. It was clear at that point that the head coach was staying in Boulder.
“While I am flattered to be considered for the head coaching job at Michigan State, I am committed to CU Buffs Football for the build of our program, its great athletes, coaches and supporters,” Tucker said.
He certainly said it with enough conviction to convince his boss.
“Mel has turned heads here with the culture he’s quickly building and recruiting success he’s had, so it’s only natural that programs looking for a coach are going to be taking note,” George added. “I know he’s committed to the Buffs all the way and we’re committed to supporting the vision he has for our program and winning championships. I’ve said plenty of times that we couldn’t be more excited that Mel is our head coach.”
Why the sudden change of heart? Well, not surprisingly, it’s mostly about money.
According to reports, Tucker will more than double the $2.4 million per year salary he was earning with the Buffs. And Michigan State also offers better facilities, amenities and other tools needed to compete in big-time college football.
Most people can understand that decision. Who wouldn’t leave for another job if they could double their salary?
But the way Tucker handled the situation was awful, to put it mildly. If he wasn’t completely out of contention for the job, he never should’ve issued a statement saying he was; he certainly shouldn’t have continually backed up those comments with further reiterations that he was staying in Boulder.
That simply makes him look like someone who is incapable of telling the truth. It makes him leaving look sneaky. He comes off as a disloyal backstabber.
That’s probably unfair, but that’s the perception. And that’s how he’ll always be remembered in Boulder.