Kentucky’s tenuous relationship with the Michigan State football program entered a new territory this week. After losing significant battles to the Wildcats, Mel Tucker started a petty war.
In the final USA Today Coaches’ Poll of the 2021 college football season, the Wildcats finished No. 15, three spots higher than the AP Poll. The victory over Iowa in the Citrus Bowl secured just the fourth ten-win season in school history. Mel Tucker was not impressed.
As noted by the Courier Journal’s Jon Hale, Tucker was one of just two coaches that left Kentucky off his final Coaches’ Poll ballot of the season. The other was San Diego State’s Brady Hoke. Ignorance may excuse the omission from the west coast coach. Tucker likely had ulterior motives for leaving UK off his ballot, preventing Kentucky from finishing one or two spots higher.
Tucker’s beef with Kentucky started as soon as he arrived in East Lansing from Colorado. One of his first acts as the Spartans’ head coach was trying to persuade Vince Marrow to leave Kentucky to become Tucker’s lead recruiter. The Big Dog ultimately turned down the job offer from his old friend to stay at UK.
Following Tucker’s first season at Michigan State, two former Spartans transferred to Kentucky, linebacker Luke Fulton and wide receiver Tre’Von Morgan, who recently re-entered his name into the transfer portal. The off the field rivalry was amplified even further on the recruiting trail in the fall of 2021.
Each team pushed their chips all in to land Kiyaunta Goodwin, a five-star prospect that would headline almost every program’s recruiting class. Down to Michigan State and Kentucky, Tucker was on the phone with Goodwin until moments before he announced his final decision. In fact, the announcement was delayed a few minutes because Tucker would not take no for an answer. Ultimately, Goodwin chose to stay home and play for the Wildcats.
Tucker picked up plenty of big wins on the field in 2021, but he has taken one L after another to the Wildcats off the field. Since he can’t beat ’em on the recruiting trail, Tucker threw a jab at the Cats in his Top 25 ballot. Kiyaunta Goodwin will not be the last player these two schools will compete for on the recruiting trail. This move will not go unnoticed by Mark Stoops’ staff.
The Final USA Today Coaches’ Poll
Others receiving votes: San Diego State 114; Wisconsin 75; Air Force 42; Minnesota 23; Texas-San Antonio 11; Coastal Carolina 7; Purdue 6; Fresno State 3; Army 1.