Q & A with CU head coach Mel Tucker – Part Two

… Coach Tucker graciously agreed to sit down for an interview before the start of Fall Camp. Part One of the interview, discussing his hiring, rivalry games, and development of player leadership over the summer, can be found here


Every year, whether one coach leaves, or eight coaches are replaced, you are always going to have a new staff each year. How comfortable do you feel with your coaching staff?

I feel very comfortable with them. I was told, I have been told many, many times over the years, that when you do find the right head coaching opportunity, that you can’t hire your friends. I’ve seen that mistake made quite a few times over the past twenty-plus years. You wait your whole coaching life for a head coaching opportunity, and there are many people you have worked with before, or have been friends for a long time. But that’s not necessarily the best thing to do.

I have coaches on my staff that I have never worked with before. I have hired the staff that I thought was the best fit for this particular opportunity at Colorado. What may be a good fit in the midwest may not be a good fit here at Colorado. I retained four coaches – coach Chiaverini; coach Hagen, coach Els, and then coach Wilson in the weight room – and everyone else is new for the most part. I hired each individual coach or support staff member for a reason. I took just as much time and due diligence with my coordinators as I took with assistant recruiting folks or analysts or quality control assistants..

Everyone is important. It’s all about the details. When you have 85 guys on scholarship, and you have up to 130 guys on your team total, including the walk-ons. We are responsible for these guys, both on and off the field. So every person on our staff, whether it’s the training room, nutrition, weight room, coaching staff, recruiting folks. Everyone has an impact on the players at some point. There is contact, there’s interaction, there’s communication. We have to surround our players with the very best people that we can to help them on and off the field. We want high character people, who care about young men, that are experts in their fields.

I think the more outstanding, exceptional people that you can have to surround your players, the better they are going to do. It’s really about environment and expectations.

As you prepared yourself for a head coaching opportunity, did you develop an “A-list” of potential coaches you wanted to work with?

I have an extensive list of assistant coaches and strength coaches and all types of support people that I have on an Excel spreadsheet that I have compiled over the years. It’s very detailed. As you coach with folks along the way, or meet people that you are impressed with or who are impressed with you. I’ve had people tell me, ‘Hey, if you ever get a head coaching job, I would love to work with you’. I’ve tried to make it a point to never make a promise to anyone, because you never know what that circumstance is going to be, or if that is going to be possible.

So, yes, I do have a very, very extensive list that I update every summer. I have interview materials, an NFL head coaching book, a college coaching book, which is always being updated. But probably the most important part of that preparational materials is the list of potential staff.

How has recruiting been like for you, moving to the Pac-12 from the SEC?

I’ve taken a very similar approach to what I’ve experienced at Michigan State, LSU, Ohio State, Alabama or Georgia. Even looking when I was recruited to Wisconsin as part of the first Class recruited by Barry Alvarez. There are not as many in-state prospects as there are in states like Ohio or Georgia or Florida. There are really good players in this state that you have to get, that you have to recruit hard.

Then, you have to be very deliberate the out-of-state markets, so we’re focused on Utah, California, Texas. We’re opening up Louisiana, New Orleans, and also Georgia. Then we have some coaches with some ties in some areas, like coach Kap(ilovic) has some strong ties in Arizona, coach Brumbaugh has some really strong ties in Mississippi.

Outside of those areas, we will recruit nationally for quarterbacks. We’ll go anywhere for a quarterback. We will also recruit a kid who has a connection to the university. Maybe there is a transplant, a kid who grew up in Colorado but maybe now lives in Ohio. Maybe a former player may have a son who is a player. We will recruit that player because there is a connection to CU.

Every school has to have a model. Our model is very different than that of Georgia, because of all of the in-state players they have their. We have been very aggressive in identifying players early, getting early evaluation on prospects, and then extending offers to those players who we feel can help us win championships … and that have the ability to graduate here with a degree of their choice. This is not an easy school by any stretch. This is a challenging institution, with a valuable degree.

Recruiting has gone well so far. We are up to double digit commitments. We’re ranked very high right now in the Pac-12, at this point of the recruiting season. That being said, I tell the coaches ‘Trust your eyes. Trust your experience and evaluations. Don’t look at how many stars a kid has, don’t look at who else is recruiting them’. We are looking at trusting our evaluation, at the criteria we are using for that particular position and what our needs are. What I have found is that, more often than not, we’ve been very early on players, and then, once we offer them scholarships, other offers start to come in. I always want to be out front.

Does it make a difference to be out front, to be the first Power-Five conference school to offer a player?

I often tell players, ‘We are the first Power-Five conference school to offer you. I guarantee you that, by the end of the week, you will have ten more offers’. And that always happens.

With today’s recruits not having even been born the last time Colorado won a conference championship, how much more difficult is it to sell a Colorado versus selling a team like Georgia?

My experience is that the players, the prospects, have a very short memory. They want to know who is relevant now, in the past year or so. That is what really matters to them. And they are also looking for the next big thing – whether it’s the newest I-phone to come out, or the latest and greatest sneaker – that is what they have an eye out for. What is emerging that they can be a part of that may be different. So, what we talk about here is – ‘let’s just get them here’. Once we get them here, we can sell them we can close them. Once you drive into Boulder from Denver, you are going to see something yo have never seen before. You see the Flatirons, then you come to the stadium, you see the backdrop. You breathe the air and there is no humidity, and feel the altitude, and see the $160 million dollar facilities. You see top notch coaches from all over the country assembled here in Boulder, it’s actually be quite over-whelming for some of the players.

I have actually asked our video folks to shoot more videos of our facilities, and our atmosphere, to kind of segment it. Stadium, one video. Locker room, one video. Offices, one video. Weight room, one video. Just so the players aren’t so surprised when they get here. Some of the videos just don’t do the place justice.

Almost every single time someone has come here, they are like, ‘This place is ten times better than we thought it was going to be. We thought it would be nice, but it is just so much better’. Even when we stand in my office, and stare out at the Flatirons, people look at me like, ‘What’s the trick? What’s the catch? There’s got to be a catch’. I had a kid a couple of weeks ago who sat here (in his office) and said, ‘There has got to be something wrong with this place. What are you guys trying to hide? What are you guys hiding?’ I told him that there is nothing to hide. I just got here December 5th, and it is what it is. This is that place. And that’s why we have so many commitments so far. We just have to get them here. We have plenty of things to sell about this university, this football program, the city of Boulder, Denver, the whole state. There’s no shortage of things to sell.

I was once told, ‘Instead of talking about what you don’t have, focus on what you do have’. When you focus on what we do have to offer, like right now, it’s infinite. It just goes on and on and on. We have something for every single prospect, whether it’s a kid from south Georgia or a kid from Boston, or a kid from California, Texas, Louisiana. We’ve brought players in from Florida, from Miami, from all over the country, and they all identify with something once they get here. I ask them, ‘What do you like about the place?’. We have some kids who like the outdoors, to fish and hunt. There are some kids who love the mountains and the atmosphere. There are prospects and parents who are impressed with how safe Boulder is, and how safe their son is going to be, which is important to them and to us. I’ve had a lot of players and parents say they feel that there is a family atmosphere on our coaching staff When they meet our players, they talk about how the chemistry, and how tight everyone is, and how nice everyone is, and how welcoming. And you want some kids who just want something different, and have a new adventure on their own.

And the world is getting smaller. You have national TV, you have live streaming video and TV. You have parents who want to see their kids play, and have never missed a game – we’re not very hard to get to. You can fly right into Denver, some inexpensive flights, and it only takes us 30-35 minutes to get here from the airport. So transportation for our players, either getting home, or having their parents come here, it’s not that difficult. So that is also a selling point for us as well. We are in a college town, which is in the ‘Boulder bubble’, but we are in close proximity to Denver, and all of its culture and its diversity. So there is an infinite amount of things that we can sell here, and that we should sell. There’s no excuse for us not to have a very successful football program here.


5 Replies to “Q & A With Mel Tucker – Part Two”

  1. This was a great interview, very insightful. So was the one with Chiaverini and Plati. Glad you got access to all three!

  2. Agreed – he has an easy confidence about him and he seems like he knows exactly what he wants to get done. Good point about Leavitt. I was blown away (and happy) that he made Chev the Assistant Head Coach. Keeping Chev was also one of the best moves he’s made. I am also very hopeful about Coach Kap. If the O-line can make a jump, this offense should be deadly – and it seems like there’s plenty of talent there to work with. Just watched a compilation of Shenault’s 2018 highlights …. I’m ready for the season to start!!!

  3. Yo Stuart,
    Strongly agree with both EP and KevinMac for the most part. Boulder is an extremely special place. Bill McCartney recognized it when he got here. Mel Tucker has already figured it out. Carpetbagger Mickey Mac never wanted to be here (thanks to the Flatirons gods that he is gone).

    As our greatest coach used to tell recruits when he first met them, “I don’t want your commitment now… I just want you to come see Boulder and the University of Colorado for yourself. Then we can talk about your future. Not just football, ALL of your future”.

    With the facilities we have, and the town we have, Mel is right in that there is something here for everyone.

    Everyone should read the recent article Jim Leavitt did with the DP. He loves Boulder and says that no place else he’s been is even close to the beauty and uniqueness of the Boulder community. And as for the personality of Leavitt, he is definitely an alpha type personality. He was also VERY good at coaching and the players loved him. Fellow coaches who were buddies with one another and the head coach felt overshadowed and knew in their hearts how much better Leavitt was at his job than they were at theirs.

    Mel Tucker wants excellence all around. He’s not here to provide a jobs program to his buddies. He’s here to win. He knows that recruiting isn’t the only important thing. You have to develop their minds AND bodies too to compete well at the Pac-12 and Power five level. You have to have the best coaches and trainers for the University of Colorado.

    Mel Tuckers seems to understand the BIG Picture in the same way that Bill McCartney did. That is a very good sign. We want coaches and players who YEARN for challenges and opportunities to prove themselves on the field of battle. If you want to call yourself the best team, you gotta prove it against other really good teams.

    Some folks want CU to play patsies in the non-conference schedule, so only three victories against the Pac-12 will get us to a bowl game. Balderdash! We want a team that is willing to take on the best teams we can find, anytime and anywhere. We want a team that wants to play for championships, of the conference and the nation.

    I was lucky enough to watch Bill McCartney’s teams both play and practice. I lived less than 100 yards from the practice fields for seven years. Those coaches and players oozed confidence. I feel that Mel Tucker can bring that back to CU football. I can’t wait for the season to begin.

    Boulderdevil & GoldenBuffs

  4. The more I hear Mel talk the more I am impressed. Seems like he is about as thorough as it gets. Win or lose I like this guy.
    My “write in quote” is “you cant hire your friends.” To me thats a part of what brought MM down. The only coach he hired who seemed to really know his stuff was Leavitt and he let Leavitt’s abrasive personality get to him in spite of his contributions to 2016.
    Hiring a friend is like lending a brother in law or even a brother money. “Awww he’s my bro. He will understand if I dont pay him back right away.”

  5. Write-In quote for Poll of the Day: “Once we get them here, we can sell them we can close them. Once you drive into Boulder from Denver, you are going to see something you have never seen before.” Sounds like Bill McCartney! I’m not a MacIntyre basher, but this quote by Tucker is very different from what I recall about MacIntyre’s quotes about recruiting to the Buffs where he constantly talked about challenges instead of opportunities.

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