Michigan State Terminates Mel Tucker’s Contract Amid Sexual Harassment Allegations

Michigan State University has taken the decision to terminate the contract of head football coach Mel Tucker for cause, following allegations of sexual harassment. The university’s investigation into the allegations will continue, regardless of Tucker’s participation in the upcoming hearing or his job status.

The allegations against Tucker were made public in a story published by USA Today on September 9. Brenda Tracy, a rape survivor and prominent activist, accused Tucker of making sexual comments and engaging in inappropriate behavior during a phone call in April 2022. Tracy had developed a professional relationship with Tucker due to her advocacy work. She filed a complaint against Tucker with the school’s Title IX office in December, prompting an investigation by an outside Title IX attorney.

The attorney submitted her report on July 25, and a hearing to determine whether Tucker violated school policy is scheduled for October 5 and 6. Michigan State suspended Tucker without pay after the allegations became public.

Tucker has vehemently denied Tracy’s allegations, calling them “completely false.” He claims that Tracy initiated the discussion that night and sent him a provocative picture. Tucker also alleges that Tracy never objected during the phone call and gave him every indication that everything was fine in the months following the incident. He stated that he and Tracy had developed an intimate relationship, which involved numerous calls during the fall of 2021 and winter of 2022.

Tracy, who survived a gang rape by college football players in 1998, is an advocate for raising awareness about sexual assault through her platform named Set the Expectation. Michigan State named Tracy an honorary captain for a spring game in 2022.

In a letter released through her attorney on September 12, Tracy stated that she had no intention of disclosing her identity publicly while the investigation was ongoing. She only shared her story with USA Today after her name was leaked to local media. Tracy agreed to be identified in the story and provided over 1,200 pages of case documents.

Michigan State’s handling of sexual abuse accusations against former USA Gymnastics and campus physician Larry Nassar has been widely criticized. Nassar sexually abused over 300 female gymnasts, and the university faced backlash for its mishandling of the situation. The university’s president and athletic director resigned amid the scandal.

Mel Tucker was hired by Michigan State in February 2020, after being recruited from Colorado. In November 2021, he signed a 10-year, $95 million contract extension following a successful 11-2 season. However, his contract includes provisions for termination if he breaches the terms, is convicted of a crime, or engages in conduct that brings public disrespect or ridicule to the university.

Tucker’s contract still has approximately $80 million remaining, with two donors contributing $24 million and the university covering the remaining $71 million.

The termination of Mel Tucker’s contract highlights the ongoing issue of sexual harassment in college sports and raises questions about the university’s ability to handle such allegations effectively. The outcome of the upcoming hearing will determine the future of Tucker’s career and further shape the narrative surrounding Michigan State’s handling of sexual misconduct cases.

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