Michigan State's Mark Dantonio agrees to indefinite furlough in new role with Spartans
Retired Michigan State football coach Mark Dantonio is on furlough.
Dantonio, after his Feb. 4 retirement, agreed to a $100,000 annual contract with the athletic department through Feb. 14, 2022. In that role, MSU football’s winningest coach will assist in donor relations and a variety of other projects.
However, Dantonio in late August agreed to indefinitely step aside as the university and athletic department navigate the financial fallout of the coronavirus shutdowns.
“As the global pandemic has drastically reduced those opportunities, Dantonio graciously and willingly volunteered for an indefinite furlough,” Matt Larson, MSU’s associate athletic director for communications, told the Detroit Free Press on Friday.
Dantonio’s furlough comes as MSU is scheduled to spend nearly $15 million in 2020 on him and new coach Mel Tucker, according to documents obtained by the USA Today Network and Free Press.
MSU gave Dantonio a $4.3 million longevity bonus earlier this year, less than a month before his surprising retirement and just a few weeks after he coached his final game. That bonus triggered Jan. 16 with a one-time payout “in recognition of his long-service to the University.” The clause was added to his contract Feb. 19, 2016, as the program was coming off his third Big Ten championship in six years and a College Football Playoff berth.
Dantonio had a 114-57 record during his 13-year tenure with the Spartans.
MSU hired Tucker on Feb. 12 and gave him a six-year contract that is scheduled to pay him an average of around $5.5 million per year. That deal included paying Tucker’s previous employer — the University of Colorado, where he spent just one season — a $3 million buyout.
As a separate letter agreement — signed by MSU President Samuel Stanley — with Tucker’s new deal, the university agreed to pay that buyout “and shall be responsible for any tax liability that Coach may owe or be assessed as a result of such buyout.”
MSU paid $2,415,162 for taxes Tucker owed for the buyout at Colorado during the school’s 2019-20 fiscal year, Larson said. That means it cost more than $5.4 million to bring Tucker to East Lansing, on top of his annual salary.
Tucker’s contract makes him the 14th highest-paid coach this year in the annual USA Today coaches salary database that was released Wednesday. His salary more than doubled from a year ago at Colorado and has increased six-fold since 2017, when he was an assistant at Georgia. Per the database, Tucker’s total compensation for 2020 came in at $5.06 million. That includes pandemic reductions of $99,750 for this contract year.
Tucker would receive his annual $400,000 retention bonus July 1, 2021 during the second year of his contract.
Had MSU tried to hire Tucker before Dec. 31, 2019, his buyout would have been $5 million for his first season at Colorado. His first-year buyout with the Spartans is $6 million before Jan. 15, 2021. It drops to $2.5 million before 2022, $2 million before 2023, $1.5 million before Jan. 15, 2024 and $1 million on or after Jan. 16, 2024.
MSU is scheduled to kick off the Tucker era Oct. 24 at home against Rutgers. It marks the Spartans’ first game with a new head coach in 13 years, with Dantonio beating Alabama-Birmingham, 55-18, in his debut Sept. 1, 2007.
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