Michigan State football fans aren’t known for their patience, but during a rebuild, it needs to be learned.
Folks, we’ve been spoiled. A year after Michigan State football lost Mark Dantonio to retirement and hired Mel Tucker in the middle of a ‘down period’ in the program’s history, the Spartans shocked everyone and went 11-2 with a New Year’s Six win.
It wasn’t supposed to happen. At least not this quickly.
In an era of “show me now” mindsets, this was exactly what Michigan State fans wanted to see. This had everyone buying in. Tucker won an entire fanbase over in the span of 12 months.
And as quickly as he won fans over, he’s found himself in a familiar position of having to prove himself again. His Spartans are 2-4 after four consecutive losses and they’re staring a bowl-less season right in the eyes after beginning the year 2-0 and ranked near the top 10.
It’s been a nightmare thus far.
Not only has he been losing on the field, but he’s also fighting to keep some of his top commits in the 2023 class. Four-star lineman Clay Wedin decommitted earlier this week and rumors are swirling about Kedrick Reescano giving Ole Miss a look. When it rains, it pours. But Tucker knew this was possible. He can’t lose sight of the larger goal.
Every program loses commitments. It happens everywhere you look. Obviously losing games doesn’t help, but this could have very well happened if Michigan State was 6-0, too.
The panicking fans do not realize this.
Some fans are inquiring about a buyout for Tucker. Others are wondering about how long his leash is going to be moving forward. A lot of impatience is being shown by people who praised Tucker and what he’s done for the program just two months ago.
It’s time to step back and see the big picture.
No program can go from where Michigan State was when Mark Dantonio unexpectedly retired right after National Signing Day (his third straight mediocre class) to a national powerhouse in 2-3 years. Not one.
OK, maybe Alabama or Ohio State, but that’s about it.
Michigan State was in a bad place two years ago. Hope for the future was at an all-time low. Then Mel Tucker was hired and it was restored slowly, but surely. He brought excitement back. Sure, he went 2-5 in his first year, but he had two top-10 wins and gave fans a taste of success. Tucker followed that up with an unexpected 11-2 season.
Michigan State was considered one of the “worst Power Five teams” in college football before the 2021 campaign. Tucker was ranked somewhere in the 50-60 range of head coaches in the Power Five.
And then he won 11 games. He exceeded expectations and probably did himself a disservice in doing so whether he realized it or not.
What he did was like buying your wife a diamond bracelet for your first anniversary. It’s unexpected and she loves you for it, but that just means you have to do better next year or it’ll be a disappointment.
Trying to live up to the expectations placed upon the team before the 2022 season was never going to be easy. We all realized it, but we didn’t want to believe it.
Sure, we knew 10-11 wins weren’t likely, but 8-9 was probable, right? Tucker landed another batch of transfers and his first real non-COVID recruiting class was here so the Spartans shouldn’t be much worse, right? We got ahead of ourselves.
Fans, like myself, expected Michigan State to just carry that momentum over to a completely new team and contend for a Big Ten title. Losing Kenneth Walker III wasn’t going to be that detrimental. Heck, losing Xavier Henderson in the first game wasn’t going to hurt either.
Why did we think this?
Because Michigan State fans — really college football fans in general — are inherently impatient.
We saw Tucker prove himself in 2021 so we just expected him to continue to see success with no hiccups. That’s not how rebuilds work.
And whether we want to believe it or not, Michigan State was facing a major rebuild.
After 2020, the Spartans had guys transfer to the MAC, Sun Belt, and even the FCS. Tucker inherited a roster that may have struggled to contend in the Group of Five. And yet we expected Big Ten title contention on a regular basis a year later.
Let’s take a step back and let Tucker rebuild this thing.
Patience is key when it comes to building a program and, unfortunately, we forgot that after 2021.