Michigan State paid coach full bonus marked for him, entire staff

Months after Michigan State agreed with football coach Mel Tucker on a 10-year contract set to pay him $9.5 million annually, athletics director Alan Haller awarded Tucker the entirety of a $100,000 bonus that the contract says will be paid each year to the football program and allocated among Tucker, his assistant coaches and the program’s other staff members, a document obtained by USA TODAY Sports shows.

The bonus was paid in addition to the $250,000 incentive amount that Tucker received for the team’s appearance in the Peach Bowl last December. The payment of the bowl bonus was confirmed in correspondence from the Michigan State Freedom of Information Act Office, which cited data it said had come from the athletics department.

Athletics department spokesman Matt Larson said in an email he was ‘respectfully declining’ a request to interview Haller. Larson also said that Tucker declined to comment, and that the department and the university had no other comment on the payment to Tucker.

The provision for the $100,000 amount was carried over from Tucker’s initial contract with Michigan State, which hired him away from the University of Colorado after the 2019 season.

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That deal was scheduled to give Tucker nearly $5.5 million in basic annual compensation for the 2021 season, although he – like other Michigan State athletics department employees — was still working under a 12-month pandemic-related pay reduction. The reduction had begun on Sept. 1, 2020, and had been set to result in a $266,000 overall reduction in compensation for Tucker, including $166,250 during his contract year that included the 2021 season.

Last November, with Tucker being connected to head coaching jobs at LSU and Southern California, he and the university negotiated a new agreement that was signed by then-university president Samuel Stanley on Nov. 24 and approved by the board of trustees a little more than three weeks later.

The contract with Tucker includes a section that states:

‘The University shall pay a yearly bonus of $100,000 to the Program, to be allocated between the Coach, the assistant football coaches, and the Program administrative staff, at the discretion of the Athletics Director with input from the Coach. The University shall such (sic) bonus no later than June 30th following the end of each football season, provided, however, that the University shall not be obligated to pay such bonus to the Program if the Coach had provided notice of termination to the University.’

In response to an open-records request, Michigan State provided a university “Additional Payment Form” dated July 14, 2022, that reported Tucker was being paid $100,000 and carried in a notation in the comments section that read “June Annual Bonus.”

Larson confirmed that the payment was in connection with the contract provision calling for the $100,000 bonus to the program.

For the 2021 season, Michigan State’s football assistant coaches were scheduled to receive amounts ranging from $250,000 to $1.05 million, including annual retention amounts, but not including the pandemic-related reductions or bonuses each was scheduled to receive for the Peach Bowl appearance under the athletics department’s bonus policy.

While some football administrative staff members at Power Five public schools typically make more than $100,000 annually, many make less than that. The Michigan State athletics department bonus policy that was in place last season also included specific amounts, based on a portion of base salary, for roughly 10 football support staff members. Other support staff members were eligible for bonuses of unspecified amounts, with the approval of their direct supervisor and Haller. 

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