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Michigan State hearing officer rules Mel Tucker sexually harassed Brenda Tracy, her attorney says

A Michigan State University hearing officer has determined that former football coach Mel Tucker sexually harassed and exploited rape survivor and activist Brenda Tracy, according to her attorney, Karen Truszkowski.

The hearing officer ruled Tucker was in violation of several terms of his contract, a person familiar with the ruling told The Associated Press on Wednesday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to comment publicly on the investigation.

Tucker, who was fired nearly a month ago after initially being suspended, has 10 days to file an appeal.

“My first reaction was tears of relief,” Tracy told USA Today, which first reported details of the decision.

Tucker was suspended and later fired for acknowledging he had phone sex with Tracy, who was a vendor once paid to speak with the Spartans football team about how to prevent sexual abuse and misbehavior. The school said it terminated Tucker after he subjected the institution to ridicule, breaching his contract and moral turpitude.

Tucker's agent, Neil Cornrich, said the hearing officer's report was filled with “countless factual and legal errors.” He said an appeal and possible lawsuit would follow.

“Since the school chose to issue a termination prior to the hearing, the decision is of zero practical import and merely reflects the biased and completely dysfunctional administration” of the office that investigates sexual misconduct allegations, Cornrich said.

Tucker signed a $95 million, 10-year contract nearly two years ago. If the school gets its way, he will lose about $80 million he was due to make through Jan. 15, 2032.

Tracy filed a complaint with the school last year, saying Tucker sexually harassed her during a phone call in April 2022. Several months later, Tracy filed a complaint with the school’s Office for Civil Rights and Title IX Education.

Shortly after Tucker was fired in September, attorney Jennifer Belveal asked university officials and representatives to preserve all documents related to the investigation “in anticipation of litigation” against the university for what she said was an illegal termination.

Tracy’s allegations were made public by USA Today on Sept. 10. On the same day that the report was published, Tucker was suspended. She is known for her work with college teams educating athletes about sexual violence and Michigan State paid her $10,000 to share her story with the football team.

The 51-year-old Tucker asked for a medical leave for “a serious health condition” while he was suspended and the school denied the request, saying it was “unnecessary,” according to his attorney. He and his attorneys did not attend a hearing earlier this month.

Tucker began his coaching career with Nick Saban as a graduate assistant for the Spartans in 1997. He returned to the school with one of the biggest contracts in college sports after leading Colorado for one season and serving as an assistant coach at Georgia, Alabama and Ohio State.

Tucker also worked in the NFL, leading the Jacksonville Jaguars as interim coach during the 2011 season and also was an assistant with his hometown Cleveland Browns and Chicago Bears.

He was 20-14 in three-plus seasons at Michigan State, which he led to 11 wins in 2021, and his career record as a college football head coach is 25-21, including one season at Colorado.

The Spartans, who have lost five straight games since Tucker was suspended, play at Minnesota on Saturday.

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AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll