It has been over two decades since Nick Saban was at Michigan State, but the former Spartans head coach still keeps an interest in seeing his old program do well. According to a report by Tony Paul of The Detroit News, Saban helped steer MSU toward hiring Mel Tucker.

Paul calls Saban “an unofficial search firm” for Michigan State. Paul’s sources said Saban reached out early in the process of finding the replacement for Mark Dantonio.

“I’m very interested in Michigan State having the right person,'” Saban said in the phone call, according to the source. “And they weren’t bashful about asking Nick.”

Paul reports that Saban was a strong endorser of Tucker, who served on Saban’s staff at MSU, LSU and Alabama. Saban reportedly “stressed” Tucker’s reputation as a recruiter and ties to talent hotbeds in the southeast. Saban also believed Tucker had the right coaching experience for the gig:


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Saban also stressed to MSU that a mix of college and NFL coaching experiences is a plus, rather than an imbalance toward one over the other.

For the Spartans, they replace one coach off the Saban tree with another. Dantonio was Saban’s defensive backs coach at Michigan State from 1995-99. Tucker was a graduate assistant in 1997 under Saban at MSU and then became Saban’s defensive backs coach at LSU in 2000. After coaching in the NFL from 2005-14, Tucker worked again with Saban as Alabama’s assistant head coach and defensive backs coach in 2015 before he followed Kirby Smart to Georgia in 2016. After three years as Smart’s defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach, Tucker took the head coaching job at Colorado ahead of the 2019 season.