Michigan State pays $100,000 for search firm in hiring Mel Tucker

February, 2020

In the Media

It took Michigan State less than two weeks to find a new football coach.

The process included the use of a search firm, which cost the university $100,000.

According to a contract obtained via a records request, DHR International charged Michigan State that fee for its services in searching for a coach.

Mark Dantonio announced his retirement on Feb. 4 after 13 seasons leading the Spartans and departed as the program’s all-time winningest coach. Colorado’s Mel Tucker was announced as his successor on Wednesday.

The agreement between Michigan State and DHR has a guarantee that states if the person hired leaves the job or is fired within two years of the date they were hired, DHR will conduct the search again for free. There’s also language in the contract for Michigan State, at its discretion, to pay an option bonus if the search is “deemed impactful to Michigan State University and the future of their football program.”

A 2016 story by CBSSports.com looked at the fees 11 schools charged for a search firm and found the average was about $70,000 with a high of $120,000. Texas paid Korn Ferry $266,990 for its 2014 search that hired Charlie Strong, who lasted just three seasons before being fired, according to USAToday.

Tucker’s six-year contract was approved by the Board of Trustees on Wednesday. Beekman said Tucker will start with an annual salary of $5.5 million and will have a staff pool of $6 million.

While presenting Tucker as the candidate to Michigan State’s Board of Trustees on Wednesday, athletic director Bill Beekman said discussions with Dantonio had been going on for weeks, it became clear his retirement was imminent and a search firm was engaged on Jan. 31.

The agreement sent from DHR International managing partner Glenn Sugiyama and Michigan State was dated Jan. 23 and was signed by Beekman on Jan. 31. Sugiyama is a Michigan State graduate, a former assistant basketball coach at Eastern Michigan and a former member of the Chicago Bulls board of directors. He was in attendance for Tucker’s introductory press conference on Wednesday night.

Sugiyama is a prominent name in the coaching search business and, according the Chicago Tribune, was part of the process that led to Stanford hiring Jim Harbaugh in 2006 and, more recently, with Jim McElwain at Central Michigan and Jeff Brohm at Purdue.

Michigan State’s search played out publicly and didn’t look good initially for the Spartans as Iowa State’s Matt Campbell, Pittsburgh’s Pat Narduzzi, Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell and 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh all publicly stated they planned on remaining in their current job or reportedly turned down interest from Michigan State. Tucker tweeted Saturday he was flattered by the interest from Michigan State but committed to Colorado before changing his mind three days later. Fickell appeared to be the top target but announced Monday he was staying at Cincinnati.

“We really began the search I think with a very clear vision of what we were looking for in our next head coach,” Beekman said while presenting Tucker to the Board of Trustees. “We were looking for a person of character, a person who is passionate about Michigan State University, someone with head coaching experience and a track record of coaching success. Someone with a strong recruiting background, especially in the Midwest, Big Ten experience and someone who’s a gifted teacher. In a role like this, fit is absolutely critical. And ultimately we found a coach who shares our passion and our vision for Spartan football.”

Beekman noted two lead roles in the search committee belonged to deputy athletic directors Alan Haller and Jennifer Smith. They sought outside opinions from numerous individuals, including current and former coaches and players.

“People say, ‘Isn’t it the athletic director’s job to find a coach?’” Sugiyama told the Chicago Tribune in November. “No, the AD’s job is to hire the best person. The coach is often the highest-paid employee of the university and the state. Many people consider it malpractice not to use an executive search firm to make the best decision possible.”

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