Michigan State officially fired Mel Tucker earlier this week, which formally kicked off the Spartans' search for their next head coach.

One name that seems to be on every MSU shortlist — perceived or otherwise — is Mike Elko, who's in his second year at Duke. Through one-and-a-third season with the Blue Devils, Elko has put together a 13-4 record, which includes a 9-4 finish in his inaugural campaign at Duke.

The job he's done making a basketball school where football is a distant afterthought competitive has turned a lot of heads. Especially when Duke kicked off 2023 with a 28-7 waxing of Clemson on Labor Day.

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Duke is Elko's first head coaching opportunity, but as a defensive guru he already has a long resume, having coordinated good to great defenses at Bowling Green, Notre Dame, Wake Forest, and Texas A&M. He has also done a good job identifying and developing talent, which is evidenced by what he's done with Duke, particularly in bringing along quarterback Riley Leonard.
Elko's defense-first and blue-collar bona fides make him an obvious potential fit for Michigan State. So does the fact that Elko has quickly made competitive a basketball school that's overshadowed by an intra-conference Power Five rival just down road.

That's what made what happened on ESPN College Gameday so awkward Saturday morning.

The show was broadcast for from Duke's campus in light of the Blue Devils' primetime showdown with Notre Dame. During a segment where the hosts riff on various news stories and topics throughout the sport, MSU's coaching search came up. With Elko just off camera, Pat McAfee decided to address the elephant in the room and, well, just take a look for yourself.

Now THAT'S good television.

And if you're a Spartan fan who's disappointed in how Elko reacted, take it with a grain of salt. It wouldn't be the first time a coach publicly denied his candidacy for another job only to wind up in the position in which he supposedly had no interest a short time thereafter.

10 Realistic Candidates Michigan State Could Target For Next Head Coach

This list isn't like the dozens of others you've seen cobbled together with an amalgamation of next-to-impossible hires, like Nick Saban, and completely unqualified guys, such as Division 2 candidates and coaches who have been at a Group of Five job for five-plus years. This group consists of legitimate names who meet most if not all of the qualifications and needs of MSU's football program and who would probably be interested if the Spartans made an overture.

We've also rated each candidate in terms of the likelihood that they'll be seriously by Michigan State.

Critical Qualifications For Michigan State's Next Head Football Coach

Just like any normal job in the real world, the permanent head football coach gig at MSU comes with requirements. Here are a few that ought to be non-negotiable.

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