Michigan State football coach Mel Tucker has been suspended without pay by the university amid an investigation into alleged sexual misconduct.
According to MSU Athletic Director Alan Haller, the investigation remains “active and ongoing,” and Tucker will be away from the team pending an early October hearing into the allegations.
According to Haller, Harlon Barnett will take over as the acting head coach in Tucker’s absence, and former head coach Mark Dantonio will be an associate coach to offer support.
“Both men have a deep love for Michigan State football, Spartan athletics, the university and the East Lansing community,” Haller told reporters.
Tucker will face a hearing next month over allegations that he sexually harassed activist and rape survivor Brenda Tracy during a phone call last year, according to USA Today.
Michigan State hired an outside Title IX attorney to investigate the complaint and the investigation concluded in July, according to the report published Sunday.
A hearing is scheduled for Oct. 5-6 to determine if Tucker violated the school’s sexual harassment and exploitation policy, USA Today reported.
Tucker is in the third year of a $95 million, 10-year contract and if he is fired for cause, the school would not have to pay him what's remaining on his deal.
Michigan State may fire Tucker for cause if he “engages in any conduct which constitutes moral turpitude or which, in the University's sole judgement, would tend to bring public disrespect, contempt or ridicule upon the university,” according to his contract. The school may also suspend Tucker, without pay, if he “materially breaches" his contract.
Messages seeking comment were left Sunday by The Associated Press with Tucker, Tracy, Haller and Tucker’s attorney, Jennifer Belveal.
Tracy became friends with Tucker over her advocacy work, but that relationship took a turn in April 2022 when Tucker masturbated during a phone call with her, according to USA Today.
“The idea that someone could know me and say they understand my trauma but then re-inflict that trauma on me is so disgusting to me, it’s hard for me to even wrap my mind around it,” Tracy told the newspaper. “It’s like he sought me out just to betray me."
Tucker acknowledged to investigators last spring that he masturbated during the phone call with Tracy, but he said they had consensual “phone sex."
“Ms. Tracy’s distortion of our mutually consensual and intimate relationship into allegations of sexual exploitation has really affected me,” Tucker wrote in a March 22 letter to the Title IX investigator. “I am not proud of my judgment and I am having difficulty forgiving myself for getting into this situation, but I did not engage in misconduct by any definition.”
Michigan State beat Richmond on Saturday to improve to 2-0 in Tucker's fourth season with the school. Tucker is one of college football's highest-paid coaches.
Tracy is known for her work with college teams, educating athletes about sexual violence. She has spoken to Michigan State's football team multiple times.