Mel Tucker took a long and winding road to become a full-time head coach. However, the current head coach at Michigan State is currently suspended without pay, Spartan AD Alan Haller confirmed Sunday evening.

A former player at Wisconsin, Tucker began his coaching career at Michigan State as a graduate assistant during the 1997 season. He would not get a shot at head coaching duties until 2011 while in the NFL with the Jacksonville Jaguars. However, that stint came as the interim with the Jaguars going 2-3 during Tucker’s time leading the team.

Tucker did not get his first full-time head coaching gig until 2019, just over 20 years into his coaching career. After becoming a head coach, it did not take long for Tucker to carve out a name for himself.

Colorado went 5-7 during Tucker’s first season with the program, and it initially appeared that he would be committed to the Buffs despite interest from Michigan State during the 2020 offseason. Then, Tucker accepted the job in East Lansing after the Spartans came back with a bigger offer, according to reports.

Tucker’s first season at Michigan State came during the COVID season of 2020, a 2-5 mark but one that featured upset wins over Michigan and Northwestern. Considering the late timing of Tucker’s hiring and the interruptions of COVID, getting early wins was a positive.

Then, in 2021, the Spartans exploded. Behind Heisman candidate Kenneth Walker III and a dynamic offense, the Spartans knocked off Michigan with a dramatic comeback while rolling to 11 wins and a Peach Bowl victory.

Tucker used that performance to capitalize on a particularly frenzied coaching carousel during the 2021 season. With his name reportedly a candidate for vacancies around the country, Michigan State dished out a 10-year, $95 million contract to Tucker despite the fact he had just one winning season to his credit.

Since handing out that deal, Tucker’s stock had fallen dramatically prior to Sunday. During the 2022 season, the Spartans missed a bowl game with a 5-7 record and dealt with a brawl in the tunnel at Michigan Stadium and key playmakers Payton Thorne and Keon Coleman opting for the transfer portal.

In the span of 5 years, Tucker has gone from a 5-7 season at Colorado, all the way to 11 wins and a massive contract extension with the Spartans, to questions about his off-field culture and now to an unpaid suspension. And, moving forward, Tucker’s head coaching future likely hangs in the balance.

To be clear, Tucker is not fired with the program confirming the unpaid suspension Sunday evening. However, it is hard to see a way back to the MSU sideline for Tucker.

The world of sports has seen a number of “rise and fall” stories over the years, but it is still hard to find one as dramatic as Tucker’s career arc over the past 5 seasons.