Jay-Z once asked, “Would you rather be underpaid or overrated?” For Black coaches, that option has rarely presented itself, as most times they’re both underpaid and underrated. Mel Tucker and Michigan State are about to change that.
Eight years after Kevin Sumlin’s six-year, $30 million deal at Texas A&M raised the price tag on Black coaches, the Spartans are willing to crack open their checkbook to keep Tucker around as they’re preparing to offer him a 10-year, $95 million extension, according to reports. And if Tucker accepts, he’ll become the highest-paid coach in the Big Ten along with being the highest-paid African-American head coach in all of American sports.
Check this out from The Detroit Free Press:
The new deal would make Tucker the highest-paid Black head coach in American sports, passing Stanford’s David Shaw, according to USA TODAY records. The Pittsburgh Steelers’ Mike Tomlin is making $8 million as the highest-paid Black coach in the NFL, while Doc Rivers of the Philadelphia 76ers is the highest-paid Black coach in the NBA at $8 million.
Tucker’s proposed payday means will also make more than John Calipari and Michigan State’s own Tom Izzo. Tucker will make more money than every coach in the NFL besides Bill Belichick, Pete Carroll, and Sean Payton — three Super Bowl-winning coaches.
“It really kind of smacked me in the face to say, ‘Man, as much as time has changed, things in this profession haven’t,” Maryland coach Mike Locksley told the Detroit News earlier this year about the three recent Black head coaches that lost their jobs on the FBS level, as The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) 2019 College Racial and Gender Report Card found that 48.5 percent of the players on the FBS level are Black compared to the 34.8 percent that are white, as only 7.3 percent of their head coaches look like Tucker.
The numbers are beyond pathetic as they point to the racist notions that have always been the underbelly of sports — which is supposed to be a “meritocracy.” Too often Black bodies are viewed as being good enough to play the game while entertaining the white masses, but when it comes to coaching, being a general manager or owner, or leading a team — like a quarterback — then come the excuses. There’s a reason why despite his track record and production, Lamar Jackson’s unquestionable greatness is ignored, watered-down, and often disrespected.
For a very large number of people walking this Earth, they don’t have an issue with the disparity whenever it comes to the lack of Black coaches in sports where Black people make up the majority of the workforce. Those people are the problem and often tell on themselves. Because if you think it’s OK for Black bodies to play a game, but aren’t in agreement that more of them should be coaching it — it proves that you don’t believe we have the intelligence that is required and that we should only be considered as entertainment despite the importance that Black coaches have always played throughout the history of sports.
“It’s meant the world to me. Being able to see someone that looks like you is very important,” Los Angeles Rams defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day told me days before Super Bowl LIII. “Diversity is key in any aspect, and not only sports but even in the workplace. And that’s so important for our youth so that they’ll never stay one-track-minded.
“(Black coaches) They always taught me how to do the right things on and off the field, and taught me that you always have to work the right way, not the wrong way,” he explained. “I’m just so thankful for all my coaches: Black, white, Latino, I’ve had it all. It’s so important for our youth to have that because it really shapes their minds and how they see the world growing up.”
This is why Tucker’s impending deal is so important. Not because a deserving Black coach is finally about to get paid his worth, but because of the potential it could have on how Black coaches will be perceived and valued — ultimately reshaping a flawed narrative. Rumors have been floating that LSU is after Mel Tucker, which is why Michigan State is trying so hard to lock him up. And if the Tigers do come with a bigger offer, we could see a potential bidding war over Tucker’s services. That would be a beautiful sight to see, especially since hundreds of years ago Black bodies used to be bid over on the auction block, which is why it’s way past time that it happened over Black minds.