By KIMBERLEY HAAS
Mat Ishbia is helping to privately fund a new contract for the Michigan State University football coach, who was the punchline of many jokes on social media last weekend after his team lost to Ohio State in a blowout game.
The Detroit News confirmed from a source close to negotiations last week that coach Mel Tucker and officials at Michigan State University were closing in on a new 10-year, $95 million contract that would make him one of the highest-paid coaches in college football. That agreement was made possible by financial commitments from Ishbia and Shift Digital CEO Steve St. Andre.
After the embarrassing 56-7 loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday, Sports Illustrated reported some Michigan State fans began wondering if they want Tucker for another decade.
“Mel Tucker spending halftime on Docusign,” @RedditCFB tweeted during the game.
Ishbia’s connections to MSU are personal and play a direct part in his corporate management. A walk-on member of the MSU 2000 National Champion men’s basketball team, he is also a graduate of MSU’s Eli Broad College of Business.
Earlier this year, Ishbia made a $32 million commitment to benefit MSU Athletics, which includes money for a significant expansion of athletic facilities, supporting career services dedicated for student-athletes, and enhancing the college’s athletic programs overall.
It is the largest single cash commitment in Michigan State’s history from an individual, according to the college’s 2021-2021 annual financial report.
The financial commitment caused a stir among current and former employees. Complaints about the company’s work culture have been documented in recent years.
Former employee Annie Haberlein, an account executive who worked for United Wholesale Mortgage from October 2020 until March 2021, has sued. She claims some hourly workers are forced to put in more than 40 hours a week, but company policies and practices prevent them from filing for overtime.
Meanwhile, some women’s advocates have noted Ishbia’s MSU funding excludes female athletes. No women’s sports teams will receive UWM underwriting.
“In 2021, this sort of blatant sexism is unacceptable,” Democratic Michigan state Rep. Laurie Pohutsky said when Ishbia announced his plan. “All athletes, regardless of their gender, should have the same opportunities and be invested in.”
Ishbia has been president and CEO of United Wholesale Mortgage, located in Pontiac, Mich., since 2003. He owns a 71% stake in the company, which has over 9,000 employees.
Forbes reports that on Nov. 22, Ishbia had a net worth of $7.5 billion.
Several dozen employees queried by the Mortgage Note did not respond to requests for comment about the company’s work and pay environment and its CEO’s payouts to the athletics program.