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MSU to terminate head football coach Mel Tucker amid sexual harassment investigation

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MSU to terminate head football coach Mel Tucker amid sexual harassment investigation

Sep 18, 2023 | 5:09 pm ET
By Anna Liz Nichols
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MSU to terminate head football coach Mel Tucker amid sexual harassment investigation
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The Michigan State University Rock on campus on September 16, following the suspension of Head Football Coach Mel Tucker amid a report he sexually harassed a sexual violence advocate. (photo: Anna Liz Nichols)

Michigan State University head football coach Mel Tucker is getting terminated amid controversy over a report he sexually harassed prominent sexual violence advocate Brenda Tracy.

In a letter dated Monday provided by MSU, the university informed Tucker that although a Title IX investigation is still underway into accusations made by Tracy, it has enough grounds to show he violated his contract.

Tracy, who came to MSU a few times while Tucker was coach to speak with athletes about sexual violence, leads a nonprofit, Set the Expectation. She travels to different organizations to engage men in conversations surrounding violence.

Tracy filed a complaint to the university in December saying that Tucker had engaged in non-consensual phone sex with her in April of that year.

MSU to terminate head football coach Mel Tucker amid sexual harassment investigation
Head coach Mel Tucker of the Michigan State Spartans looks on against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers during the second quarter of the game at Spartan Stadium on October 02, 2021 in East Lansing, Michigan. | Nic Antaya/Getty Images

Tucker was suspended from coaching without pay a week ago, the same day as USA Today first reported the complaint against Tucker.

Part of Tucker’s $95 million, 10-year coaching contract says he must reflect positively on the university and that he must conduct himself, “professionally and ethically, with integrity and sportsmanship at all times.”

“The University has become aware of various facts that have led to the unfortunate decision to terminate your employment for cause,” the letter to Tucker said. “At this point, the University has amassed a body of undisputed evidence of misconduct that warrants termination for cause.”

Tucker has admitted to commenting on Tracy’s body on different occasions, flirting with her and ultimately masturbating and making sexual comments at her on the phone call mentioned in Tracy’s complaint.

Tucker has publicly stated that he and Tracy’s relationship was flirtatious and consensual and she is simply trying to “revive her career” and destroy his life.

“I have been ripped from the Team that I love, without any meaningful opportunity to tell  my side of the story other than this press release,” Tucker said in a written statement last week. “I am incredibly proud of the outstanding group of men on the Team and my heart aches to be sidelined. I ask everyone to consider carefully the  undisputed facts outlined and reserve judgment until the full truth comes out.”

Tucker said she initiated discussions on the April call “and never once during the 36 minutes did she object in any manner, much less hang up the phone.”  

Tracy told USA Today that she froze.

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Tracy’s work with Michigan State University and other university sports teams around the country involves her telling the story of surviving a gang rape by four football players at 24 years old.

After Tucker released his statement, Tracy said on Twitter he is simply implementing “DARVO” tactics: Deny, attack, and reverse victim and offender.

“This is just more of the same DARVO, deflection, victim blaming and lies that I’ve been dealing with now for months,” Tracy said.

There will be a formal hearing in October to determine if Tucker violated the school’s sexual violence policy.