To do so, MSU is looking to turn over its football program to former Detroit Lions head coach Steve Mariucci and offer the former Northern Michigan University star a long-term deal, GoSpartans.net has learned.
According to several well-placed sources, MSU is beginning to perform due diligence on a number of candidates but Mariucci is their #1 candidate. The only question is whether Mariucci wants the job.
After being out of the country for the last few days, Mariucci arrived at (correction) Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) Saturday and although he has sold his Birmingham, MI. home, is willing to listen to the possibility of taking over the faltering Spartan program.
Over the weekend, Mariucci's long time friend, MSU basketball coach Tom Izzo was spotted at the Muskegon/Lowell MHSAA playoff game and gave a subtle nod in the direction of Lowell high school's star quarterback and Michigan State commit Keith Nichol.
Nichol interpreted the gesture to mean that "the Michigan State program is still with me and on my side," he said to the Detroit News stellar prep writer Mick McCabe.
Some believe that Izzo was acting on Mariucci's behalf, making sure that Michigan State's star recruit didn't get away.
The main question with Mariucci's candidacy appears to be whether he is willing to get back into the recruiting wars with the same zest that Izzo possesses.
"Mooch" only spent one year as a head coach at the collegiate level with the University of California-Berkeley, improving the Golden Bears from 3-8 to 6-5 before jumping to the San Francisco 49ers.
As head coach with the Bay Area team, he put together a 60-43 record and made the playoffs four times with the Niners.
Mariucci's wife, Gayle, loves the Bay Area and their sons are going to attend college in the area. He has this season and one more remaining on the five-year, $25 million contract he signed with the Lions back on February 2003.
An even more palatable scenario would have Mariucci landing at State with Philadelphia Eagles quarterbcks coach Pat Shurmur, a George Perles disciple, as his offensive coordinator and future successor. Shurmur has been schooled in the West Coast Offense run by Andy Reid, a former staff member with Mariucci in Green Bay under current Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren.
Michigan State is also believed to have made contact with Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, a Nick Saban protegee' who was the defensive line coach during Saban's tenure and rose to assistant head coach.
Grantham was the defensive line coach for Indianapolis and Houston before moving to the Browns.
University of Michigan defensive coordinator Ron English has stated that he has not yet been contacted by Michigan State but sources have told GSN that Michigan didn't want English to talk to anyone until season's end.
According to sources, the Black Coaches Association was ready to intervene on English's behalf to facilitate an early interview, but was rebuffed.
Michigan is currently 10-0 and ranked second in the nation a week away from a showdown with #1 Ohio State a de-facto elimation game that will determine which team plays for the National Championship.