Earlier in the week, Michigan State head coach held his weekly press conference to address the media after suffering a tough 38-27 loss to Rutgers just days earlier. In doing so, Tucker took an interesting route, one usually associated with Ohio State or even former Michigan head coach Brady Hoke.
During his media availability, Tucker refused to say the word "Michigan" even though it is the very first word of the academic institution he coaches at. Given the fact that its Tucker's first year as a head coach in the rivalry, it is logical that he may be reaching for extra favor among Spartan fandom, but it comes off as an interesting choice given that he's been back in East Lansing for less than nine months.
In any event, Wolverine Digest took a look into everything else that Tucker said-- or refused to say-- about Michigan.
Q: "Just wonder what maybe your earliest memories of this rivalry are and if you've traveled during your coaching career, if you've kept an eye on this game from a distance just to know how good of a rivalry it is nation-wide?"
Tucker: "I remember, obviously playing at Wisconsin, you're aware of the rivalries in the Big Ten, and always Michigan - Michigan State has been a huge one. Being here as a graduate assistant in 97-98, I was really able to experience that first hand and just feel the passion and the energy, There is not a day that goes by where you don't hear about this game from someone in one way, shape or form. It certainly is not just a game. That's what makes college football special is these types of rivalries and that's what makes it special to be here at State."
Q: "Coming off of the Rutgers loss, how do you get your team amped up and prepared for the intensity that's going to come with playing the University of Michigan?"
Tucker: "It's one thing that's very important to be able to handle is if, in fact, you do lose game, how do you handle a loss? How do you, what is your mental disposition coming off a game like that? So, the process is win or lose, there is a 24 hour rule, then it's time to move onto the next game. Obviously, self evaluation, we watch the film, we see the things that need to be corrected and put a plan in place to do that and make sure the players understand where we fell short and how we can get better and give them a path to success, but also you want to look at the positives and the things that you can build upon, and certainly we had some of those in the game. Then after you make those evaluations about the previous game ,then you quickly turn the page and focus on the next game. We've done that. We are well into our game plan for the school up the road, so our focus is a laser focus on this game on Saturday."
Q: "What do you remember from Michigan - Michigan State from back in 1997 and '98?"
Tucker: "I do remember vividly how we embraced that game. I've had some pretty good mentors that I worked with that embraced rivalry games, and obviously at that time with Coach [Nick] Saban it was made to be a special game. There was emphasis put on it. I can remember the intensity going into that game and the preparation When you have these rivalry games, its just different. There's no way around it. The places that I've been, I've been very fortunate as a player, very fortunate as coach to be a part of these rivalry games, whether it's Auburn - Alabama or Georgia - Florida, Ohio State - Michigan, Michigan State, Chicago - Green Bay, Cleveland - Pittsburgh and all of those rivalry games, we've embraced those games and really treated them special. There is no difference here, now. We know that this is not just a game, but obviously from a process standpoint we have to focus on the day-to-day preparation and the things that you do to put yourself in a position to perform and have success in the game. We cannot just be focused on the destination, We have to embrace also the journey along the way to get us to that point, and that's where we are today."
Q: "From coaching in college and in the NFL, has your path ever crossed with Jim from coaching clinics to games or do you know him?"
Tucker: "I've met Jim. I've actually coached against him at let cone when I was in Chicago and he was in San Fran as the head coach. We were able to matchup. I actually know his brother better than I know him. But I know that he's a fantastic coach and that he's a football guy, comes from a football family, and obviously U have respect for all of our coaches in this conference and all of the coaches I get a chance to compete against."
Q: "How hungry is the team to snap the two-game losing streak that you're on but also what does it mean to you to have leaders on your team and to express the importance of this rivalry?"
Tucker: "Leadership is so important on a team, and I've seen both of those guys step up. I love to see that. That's what a team does. The older guys educate the younger guys on the culture and the tradition and the importance of what it means to be a Spartan and what it means to play the school down the road. I'm happy to see those guys do that. That's a big part of developing a winning culture is having great leadership for the players. Those two guys have certainly stepped up to do that for us."
Q: "You haven't said the word Michigan. Are you using basically Ohio State terminology of 'the school down the road, the school up the road,' is it intentional?"
Tucker: "I don't think there is any question for me of who were playing this week. The school down the road, I think we all know who that is. I just think it's pretty obvious."
What do you think of how Tucker handled his first Michigan Week press conference? Does his approach surprise you? Let us know!