On Monday, it was announced that Michigan State Spartans head football coach Mel Tucker has been named the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) FBS Region 3 Coach of the Year.
Tucker is one of five coaches to earn regional honors, joining Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell (Region 1), Arkansas’ Sam Pittman (Region 2), Texas-San Antonio’s Jeff Traylor (Region 4) and Utah State’s Blake Anderson (Region 5). Tucker and the four other coaches are now finalists for the 2021 Werner Ladder AFCA FBS National Coach of the Year award, which will be announced on Sunday, Jan. 9.
Of course, Tucker — in just his second season at the helm for Michigan State — led the Spartans to a 10-2 record and a New Year’s Six appearance with a matchup against No. 12 Pittsburgh in the Peach Bowl on Thursday, Dec. 30. In the preseason, Michigan State was picked to finish last in the Big Ten East in the cleveland.com poll and most betting websites set MSU’s win total between four and five games.
Tucker and his staff used the transfer portal to the program’s advantage and transformed the roster by bringing in several difference-makers at various positions for the 2021 season, including Heisman-hopeful running back Kenneth Walker III.
Coming off of a 2-5 season in the COVID-19-shortened season in 2020 and improving to 10 wins in 2021 (an eight-game improvement) is the biggest turnaround year-over-year in program history (it was previously a seven-game improvement from 2016 to 2017). Tucker also is the earliest Michigan State coach to reach 10 wins in a single season (Mark Dantonio did so in his fourth season in 2010 with 11 wins). MSU can still get to 11 wins this season with a victory in the Peach Bowl.
Michigan State finished No. 10 in the final College Football Playoff top-25 rankings. The Spartans and are also ranked No. 10 in the AFCA/USA TODAY Coaches Poll and No. 11 in the Associated Press Poll.
Tucker previously earned the Big Ten Coach of the Year nod, and has been named named to watch lists for National Coach of the Year by the Dodd Trophy and the Paul “Bear” Bryant Award.
Clarence “Biggie” Munn (1952) and Duffy Daugherty (1954) are the only Michigan State coaches to have previously won the AFCA Coach of the Year award.