Michigan State coach Mel Tucker still on brand to promote

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FILE - Michigan State head football coach Mel Tucker acknowledges fans during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game between Michigan State and State of Penn on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, in East Lansing, Michigan.  Michigan State's third-year football coach, hoping more people will get to know him better, gave five reporters a day of full access this summer that started on a golf course and ended on the vast terrace of his house.  (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

FILE – Michigan State head football coach Mel Tucker acknowledges fans during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game between Michigan State and State of Penn on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, in East Lansing, Michigan. Michigan State’s third-year football coach, hoping more people will get to know him better, gave five reporters a day of full access this summer that started on a golf course and ended on the vast terrace of his house. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

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Mel Tucker smokes cigars and poses with expensive cars on social media, hoping to catch the eye of rookies coast to coast and possibly spark interest from fans near and far .

Michigan State’s No. 15 third-year football coach, hoping more people would get to know him better, invited five reporters to spend a day with him at a golf course, at a restaurant, at facilities of the team and at home. .

While a Group of Five football coach can provide similar access, it’s rare for a Power Five program manager to give members of the media about 12 hours of their time in publicity research.

“I tell recruits and their parents that we’re an open book — what you see is what you get,” Tucker said in an interview with The Associated Press in his office on campus. “Allowing access, sort of going behind the curtain, behind the scenes, I think that’s a good thing. We have nothing to hide here. I have nothing to hide.”

Tucker still seems to be on the mark, stepping out of the ordinary box that most college football coaches remain confined to, in a calculated quest to promote himself and the program as he pursues a championship.

“We recruit nationally so anything we can do on social media to sell our program, we will,” he said simply.

The Spartans were one of college football’s biggest upsets last year, winning 11 games, including a New Year’s Six Bowl game. It was quite a turnaround after going 2-5 on the year shortened by the pandemic which delayed Tucker’s first season as Mark Dantonio’s successor.

Making a proactive move to keep a coach who potentially could have left for LSU or the NFL, donors decided to give him a raise in a 10-year, $95 million deal to stay.

What Michigan State did on the court last year, however, wasn’t good enough for Tucker. He works tirelessly to win a national championship, which only the 1952 school team has won as recognized by the AP.

To win it all at Michigan State, Tucker knows he has to do more.

Much more.

Instead of relying on media relations assistance provided by the Michigan State Athletic Department, Tucker hired a public relations and marketing firm earlier this year that has clients like Amazon for l help with branding.

“He was so different from any entrepreneur I’ve ever met that I said, ‘We have to work together,'” said Shelley Reinstein, whose company, Autumn Communications, helped Tucker with charity work and media opportunities. this offseason. “I am blown away by his intelligence and his thirst for learning.”

A certified cigar sommelier is too.

Tables were set up on the upper level of Tucker’s expansive deck to display an array of cigars and bourbons as he greeted a small group of reporters to wrap up a long day.

While Tucker occasionally enjoys a cigar, sometimes in a ventilated downstairs room decorated with a painting of him and Sparty, the school mascot, he is no aficionado.

In what was called Cigar 101, the 50-year-old Clevelander peppered certified cigar sommelier Dillon Rodriguez with curious questions.

“He wanted to know all kinds of things like how long does it take for a seed to grow,” Rodriguez recalled Wednesday. “You would think guys at this stage in life wouldn’t have time for a little guy like me, but he listened to every word and gave me respect.

“After the journalists left, he invited me and the two people I was with to stay for a cigar and a beer. We would have loved it because he’s so down to earth, but we were on time.”

Tucker still seems to be working.

While he was spending time with journalists, his wife, a travel consultant, and their two sons were on a trip to Mexico. When his football players had the day off earlier this month, Tucker joined basketball coach Tom Izzo to be the grand marshals of a NASCAR race in southern Michigan.

Much of what Tucker does is designed to attract talent, from high schools or through the transfer portal, but he clearly cares about his current players as well.

Michigan State linebacker Darius Snow said Tucker helped him pursue his dreams on and off the court.

“I like to call him a contemporary because he embraces social media and NIL and it clicks with young men our age,” Snow said in a phone interview. “He knows I’m a graphic designer, so he created opportunities for me to get my work published on the team’s social media accounts. I’m not sure there would be many other coaches, or even none, who would do that.”

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Follow Larry Lage at https://twitter.com/larrylage

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