Content Warning: This story deals with allegations of sexual harassment and can be difficult to read and emotionally upsetting.
Michigan State athletic director Alan Haller announced Monday that Michigan State has given Mel Tucker written notice of intent to terminate his contract for cause. The news comes as Michigan State investigates sexual harassment allegations against a football coach.
“This notification process is required as part of his existing contract,” Haller said in a statement. “The notice gives Tucker seven calendar days to respond and present reasons to me and the interim president why he should not be terminated for cause.”
If Tucker does not present reasons to the school within seven days why he should not be dismissed for cause, he will be released on September 26. The school’s investigation will continue regardless of Tucker’s attendance at the upcoming hearing or his employment status. Tucker could be losing more than $70 million of his $95 million.
The school said Tucker’s “admitted conduct” violated the terms of his contract, which required him to conduct himself professionally and ethically at all times. MSU also said Tucker engaged in conduct “which constitutes moral turpitude or which, in the reasonable judgment of the university, would bring the school into public disrepute, contempt or ridicule.”
Timeline of Mel Tucker sexual harassment allegations, MSU investigation
Allegations of sexual harassment became public in a story published by USA Today 9th September. According to USA Today, Brenda Tracy — a rape survivor and activist — accused Tucker of making sexual comments and masturbating during a phone call with her in April 2022 after they developed a professional relationship through her advocacy work. . Tracy filed a complaint against Tucker with the school’s Title IX office in December, and MSU hired an outside Title IX attorney to investigate.
According to Haller, the attorney filed her report on July 25 and Tucker is set for a hearing to determine whether he violated school policy. That hearing is scheduled for Oct. 5 and 6 — when the football team has its bye week. Haller publicly said he became aware of the investigation in late December.
After the allegations became public, Michigan State suspended Tucker without pay.
One day after he was suspended, Tucker denied Tracy’s allegations, calling them “absolutely false”. He said Tracy “started the discussion that night, sent me a provocative photo of the two of us together, suggested what she might look like without clothes, and not once in 36 minutes did she object, let alone hang up the phone. .”
Tucker claimed that it wasn’t until four months after the phone call that Tracy told anyone she was offended. During that time, he claimed she gave him “every indication that everything was fine,” including texting him on Father’s Day and repeatedly expressing her desire to return to university, his statement said.
After meeting and bringing Tracy to campus in 2021, Tucker said he developed a personal relationship with Tracy “that blossomed into an intimate, mature relationship” that included dozens of phone calls during the fall of 2021 and winter of 2022, the period when Tucker was estranged to his wife.
Tracy, who survived a gang rape by college football players in 1998, visits campuses to raise awareness about sexual assault through an activist platform called Set the Expectation. Michigan State named Tracy an honorary captain for the 2022 spring game.
On September 12, Tracy said in a letter released through her attorney that she had no intention of revealing her identity while the investigation was ongoing and only agreed to let USA Today publish her story before the investigation was complete after her name was revealed. local media.
USA Today reported that Tracy agreed to be identified in her story and to share more than 1,200 pages of documents related to the case. USA Today added that it typically does not identify people who report sexual harassment.
Michigan State is notorious for its missteps in handling sexual abuse allegations against Larry Nassar, the disgraced former All-American gymnast and campus doctor. Nassar sexually abused over 300 female gymnasts; pleaded guilty to seven counts of sexual misconduct in 2018 and was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison. Then-school president Lou Anna K. Simon resigned amid the scandal, but criminal charges against Simon were dismissed. Athletic Director Mark Hollis also resigned during this period. It was never alleged that Hollis had any knowledge of Nassar, but a 2018 ESPN report described a pattern of sexual assault issues within MSU athletics.
Michigan State hired Tucker away from Colorado in February 2020. In November 2021, he signed a $95 million contract extension to go 11-2. The 51-year-old’s contract runs through the 2031 season unless he is released for specific reasons: a material breach of contract, a felony conviction and engaging in “any conduct that constitutes moral turpitude.”
Tucker is 19-14 as a head coach. Two donors, including Phoenix Suns and Mercury owner Mat Ishbie, are paying $24 million from the contract; the school pays $71 million.
Why did the state of Michigan start the termination process now
Michigan State had several potential paths to take after the explosive USA Today report. It could wait until the grievance process is over, or it could go after Tucker for violating the terms of his contract. That’s the path MSU chose to take — and it allows the school to move much faster. Otherwise, she would have to wait for the October hearing and then a final written decision, which could take another month. That determination might have helped the school fire Tucker, but it would have taken much longer.
MSU clearly believes it has more than enough evidence to fire Tucker for cause, based on his own admitted behavior, without waiting to determine whether he violated the school’s sexual misconduct policy. The hearing will take place even if Tucker is fired by then, with or without his presence, because it’s important that the process results in a finding, Title IX experts told me. Otherwise, if an investigation like this one were stopped once the university employee was fired, there would be no formal record of misconduct. In situations involving less prominent figures than the football coach, this could be a huge problem; another university might hire a professor with a history of sexual abuse without knowing it. — Auerbach
If Tucker is fired, who could fill the job?
Since it’s September, Michigan State will have time to put out feelers and gauge interest. There was a mad rush around signing day in February when Tucker was hired, and the timing turned off some potential hires. This time around, potential names to watch could include Kansas State coach Chris Klieman, Kansas coach Lance Leipold, Colorado offensive coordinator Sean Lewis, Duke coach Mike Elko, Iowa State coach Matt Campbell and Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith, among others.
This is a Big Ten job that has plenty of resources and a program that has played in four CFP/NY6/BCS games since 2013, so it will be very interesting.
This will be Haller’s first time hiring football. He recently hired new hockey and women’s basketball coaches, and hockey hire Adam Nightengale has quickly turned the program around in one year. It will also be MSU’s first football coaching hire on a more regular fall timeline since it hired Mark Dantonio in late 2006. — Vannini
(Photo: Mike Mulholland/Getty Images)