Michigan State intends to fire head football coach Mel Tucker for cause.
Tucker was suspended without pay last Sunday after details of an investigation into claims that he sexually harassed a prominent sexual assault awareness activist surfaced. On Monday, MSU athletic director Alan Haller said the school provided Tucker with written notice of intent to terminate his contract.
“I, with the support of the administration and board, have provided Mel Tucker with written notice of intent to terminate his contract for cause,” Haller’s statement said. “This notification process is required as part of his existing contract. The notice provides Tucker with seven calendar days to respond and present reasons to me and the interim president as to why he should not be terminated for cause. This action does not include the ongoing Office for Civil Rights case; that rigorous process will continue.”
Multiple outlets reported last Saturday that Tucker allegedly harassed rape survivor and activist Brenda Tracy after she was hired to speak to the team. Tracy operates a nonprofit company that works with college football teams and other organizations to raise awareness about sexual assault and harassment. She was hired by Michigan State “for the sole purpose of providing a sexual misconduct prevention educational program” to the football team, the school said.
According to a USA Today report, Tracy told MSU investigators that Tucker sent her gifts, asked if she would date him if he wasn’t married and masturbated during a phone call the two shared without her consent.
“In late November of 2022, [Tracy] alleged that you violated the university’s Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct and Title IX policy,” the notice to Tucker reads. “[Tracy] specifically alleged that you made unwelcome sexual advances towards her and masturbated on a phone call with her without her consent.”
Tucker said the relationship and his actions were consensual.
Tracy filed a complaint against Tucker last December. A third-party investigator oversaw the investigation, which concluded in July and led to a hearing being scheduled for the first week of October. University leaders said they did not know the details of the complaint until they emerged in media reports.
In its notice of termination to Tucker, Michigan State said there are multiple grounds for termination, including a material breach of his duties, behavior that “demonstrates conduct which constitutes moral turpitude” and conduct that “brought public disrespect, contempt or ridicule upon the university.”
“During the course of the investigation, you admitted to having ongoing discussions with [Tracy] about [Tracy] providing further sexual misconduct prevention training to the university football team. During the period where you discussed further presentations, and while married, you admitted to the following behaviors:
- Commenting to [Tracy] about her looks, body, and body parts, specifically her “ass”
- Making flirtatious comments to [Tracy] in conversations that you state “happened often”
- Masturbating and making sexually explicit comments about yourself and [Tracy] while on the phone, which you describe as “phone sex” and “a late-night intimate conversation”
Tucker, 51, had a 19-14 record during his time at Michigan State. Eleven of those wins came during the 2021 season, which concluded with a trip to the Peach Bowl. Following that season, Tucker was given a massive 10-year, $95 million contract extension that made him one of the highest-paid coaches in college football.
Approximately $77 million was remaining on Tucker’s contract, but that money would have been owed only if the coach was fired without cause. Tucker’s contract says he can be fired for cause if he “engages in any conduct which constitutes moral turpitude or which, in the university’s reasonable judgment, would tend to bring public disrespect, contempt or ridicule upon the university.”
In 2022, MSU took a big step back and finished 5-7. The Spartans began the 2023 season under Tucker with two wins before he was suspended. On Saturday, MSU lost 41-7 at home to Washington with assistant Harlan Barnett serving as interim head coach. Mark Dantonio, MSU’s head coach before Tucker, was brought in to help the staff as well.