Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker has agreed to become the Colorado Buffaloes head football coach, according to reports from multiple sources.
Tucker, 46, comes into Boulder as one of the most experienced assistants among the college ranks. Since beginning his coaching career in 1997, Tucker has won two national championships over the past two decades. The first at Ohio State as Jim Tressel’s defensive backs coach in 2002, and another as an assistant for Nick Saban at Alabama in 2015.
Tucker has also spent 10 years as a defensive assistant in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars and Chicago Bears. He went 2-3 as Jacksonville’s interim head coach to end the 2011 season.
Tucker took over as the defensive coordinator for the Bulldogs in 2016, following Kirby Smart to Georgia from Alabama. Under Tucker, the Bulldogs have been ranked in the top 15 for total defense each of the past three seasons, allowing an average of 18.1 points per game. Also, regarded as one of the best red-zone defenses in the country.
Georgia’s opponents converted 77 percent last year, much improved from 90 percent of red zone opportunities in 2016. The best season during that span was last year’s national championship run that ended with Georgia’s 26-23 overtime loss to Alabama.
A semifinalist last year for the Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant coach, Tucker was rumored to be in the running for several jobs in both college and the NFL. Georgia gave him a raise last offseason to make over $1.5 million in 2018 with incentives.
The announcement of Tucker departure from Athens comes after No. 4 Georgia’s 35-28 loss vs. No. 1 Alabama in the SEC Championship. The Bulldogs finished with a 11-2 record and fifth in the College Football Playoff rankings.
Tucker takes his first full-time head coaching position at Colorado. He will not coach in Sugar Bowl for Georgia, who’s scheduled to play Texas on New Year’s Day (8:45 ET/ TV: ESPN).
“Colorado has always been a place that I thought should be relevant in the national championship conversation year-in and year-out, because of its tradition and a seemingly endless list of what the school has to offer,” Tucker said in CU’s official press release. ”What we have to offer are some of the best facilities in the country, strong academics, and an amazing environment as a whole. Colorado should be a ‘no excuse’ program. There’s absolutely no reason we can’t achieve success at an extremely high level.
”I can remember when Colorado was dominant with players like Kordell Stewart, Rashaan Salaam, Chris Hudson, Darian Hagan, Alfred Williams and others,” Tucker continued. ”Colorado always had difference makers and was very dynamic on both sides of the ball. That’s the imprint instilled in my mind when it came to CU. My plan is to continue to restore that tradition and make sure that Colorado once again becomes an elite national program. There’s not a better place in America to live, to coach and go to school.”
CU’s existing coaches are scheduled to meet with Tucker on Thursday. There is no word yet on the assistants who might be retained on Tucker’s staff, but there is a sentiment that offensive coaches Darrin Chiaverini and Kurt Roper will be retained.
CU athletic director Rick George and chancellor Phil DiStefano will introduce Tucker at a press conference scheduled for tomorrow (Thursday, Dec. 6) at 10:00 a.m.
George has proposed that CU’s Board of Regents approve a five-year deal for Tucker worth $14.75 million of which the first-year salary would be $2.4 million and then increase by $275,000 annually, not including additional pay if any of several incentives in the contract are met. The Regents must approve Tucker’s contract, which campus leaders hope to present for their consideration at their Dec. 12 special meeting in Denver.
He becomes the 26th head football coach in CU history after replacing Mike MacIntyre, who was fired on Nov. 18 after going 30-44 in six seasons at Colorado.