The Colorado Buffaloes have found their new fearless leader.
University chancellor Philip DiStefano and athletic director Rick George held a press conference early Thursday morning at the Champions Center on campus to formally introduce Mel Tucker — who has spent the last three seasons as the defensive coordinator for the Georgia Bulldogs — as the Buffaloes’ head coach.
“First and foremost, I’m honored, privileged and proud to be here,” said Tucker. “I’ve waited for this opportunity for my entire career.”
Tucker now becomes the 26th head coach in Buffaloes program history.
“It’s a great day for Colorado,” said George in his opening remarks before introducing Tucker. “It’s a great day in our history because we get to introduce the 26th head football coach of this great institution. I said to you all two-and-a-half weeks ago that I thought this is the best job in America – I still believe that today. But what’s most important is I think we hired the best coach in America and I’m really excited about that…we hired the very best coach that we could for CU.”
Though Tucker stands to be the 26th head coach in Buffaloes program history, it is George’s first football coach he’s appointed in his six-year tenure as athletic director.
“He’s a perfect fit for our program,” added George. “I’m excited about his ability to lead this program to greatness in the days, weeks, months and years to come.”
The 46-year-old brings a wealth of experience to CU’s struggling program. If people truly are products of environment, then the Buffs snagged a pretty good one by signing Tucker, who has spent some time in very prestigious football environments and has studied under some of the game’s brightest minds.
“When I met with Rick [George], there was no doubt in my mind that this was the right fit, the right opportunity, the right time to make a move to become a head coach,” said Tucker. “…To go to a place where I know we should win, go to a place where I know we have support, go to a place where I know the expectations are high…we’re in this to be the very best we can be and that’s going to be our goal every single day.
Pending approval from CU’s Board of Regents, Tucker will be inked to a five-year, $14.75 million dollar contract. Colorado’s Regents will likely consider George’s contract proposal at their meeting in Denver on Dec. 12.
“I had the chance to talk with coach Tucker earlier this week and realized we have some things in common…we share a passion for the success of our student athletes,” said DiStefano. “…I’m pleased to welcome him to our Buff family.”
Though the Buffs have endured some tough times in the last decade or so, this changing of the guard feels like a huge leap for the program and the athlete’s who will play for the new coach.
“I also wanted to thank our student athletes for the way that they’ve handled this transition,” continued DiStefano. “I’m sure coach Tucker will have an immediate positive impact on our football program, on our university and as a league of young men. A successful football program benefits the entire university…with the proven leadership of coach Tucker, we look forward to getting back to consistent winning seasons and major bowl appearances.”
Not if, but when, DiStefano and the Board of Regents approve Tucker’s contract, which would offer him $2.4 million in his first season, with an increase in $275,000 in each of the following seasons, the new head coach will get to work right away at his new home here at Colorado. It’ll be his 10th coaching destination of his young 20-year career.
He got his coaching start shortly after graduating from the University of Wisconsin, where he played and lettered all four years as a defensive back and helped the Badgers capture the 1993 Rose Bowl. In 1997, the then-recent grad snagged a job as a graduate assistant at Michigan State, where he served as an understudy to head coach Nick Saban, who many consider to be the greatest college football coach of all-time.
That wasn’t his only stint with Saban, however. Tucker followed his teacher to LSU to serve as his defensive backs coach in 2000. The two met again in Alabama in 2015, where he helped win a national championship as the assistant head coach/defensive backs coach.
Saban, head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide since 2007, praised Tucker.
“I think he will do an outstanding job as the head coach of the Colorado Buffaloes,” Saban said. “They are getting a guy with a great personality, who knows college football, works hard each and every day, and does it with a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and positive energy.”
Between when Tucker began coaching in 1997 and today, he also coached at Miami University, helped Ohio State to a national championship berth in 2002 and spent a few years in the National Football League.
In 2005, Tucker served as the DB’s coach with the Cleveland Browns and earned a promotion to the team’s defensive coordinator in 2008 before leaving for the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he was the defensive coordinator from 2009-11. After the Jaguars fired their head coach, Tucker served as the interim head coach for five games of the 2011 season. He led the Jags to a 2-3 record in what was the only head coaching experience of his career.
He stayed with Jacksonville as the team’s assistant head coach/defensive coordinator before leaving for the Chicago Bears to serve the same role from 2013-14. In ’15, Tucker captured the national championship with coach Saban and Alabama before leaving for his most recent coaching gig with the University of Georgia.
Tucker is leaving a Georgia team that has been one of the best in college football since he’s been there. Last season, just his second year with the Bulldogs, Tucker’s defense was the sixth-best in the nation in both points and yards allowed en route to his team, finishing with an impressive 13-2 record and a national championship berth.
Georgia ultimately lost to Tucker’s former Alabama team in the championship game, 26-23 in overtime.
This season, Tucker’s defense ranked 13th in yards allowed and 15th in points allowed while finishing 11-2 and No. 5 in the nation.
Tucker has earned himself a promotion because of his strong resume and equally strong results. This will be his first full-time head coaching job as he takes over the helm here at the University of Colorado.
He was known for being a major face of Georgia’s recruiting operation; 247Sports.com ranked him as the No. 14 recruiter in the nation, based on the strength of Georgia’s 2018 class of recruits.
Tucker brings a wealth of experience to Boulder and should serve as a very good hire in the eyes of Buffs’ admirers, pundits and players — both on the team now and for future recruiting.
“Obviously the expectations are high…we’re here to win championships,” said Tucker. “If there’s one thing I can tell you, there’s no one on this planet that can put more pressure on me than I can put on myself. The expectations that I have for this university and this program are extremely high. We’re going to start working today to get this thing going in the direction that it needs to go.”
Indeed the work starts today, and Tucker will need every single day of the offseason to put together the winning program.
“This is a great place, great tradition, great facilities,” added Tucker. “The time is now in my mind.”
The Buffs open the season against Colorado State on Aug. 30, 2019, giving Tucker and his soon-to-be-assembled coaching staff a little over eight months to prepare for the season. With a new, proven captain steering the ship, the time is now for the Buffaloes program to show the nation they are among college football’s elite.
In Tucker we trust.
Contact CU Independent Sports Staff Writer Scott MacDonald at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @ScottTopics.