Michigan State University has fired head football coach Mel Tucker Jr. amid an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment, according to multiple reports.
According to NBC Sports’ Nicole Auerbach and Pete Thamel of ESPN, Tucker was fired by the university on Wednesday.
In a statement, the university said that Tucker’s “admitted and undisputed behaviors” violated his contract with the school, bringing “public disrespect, contempt and ridicule upon the university,” and that such actions constituted a “material breach” of his contract.
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“Simply put, Mr. Tucker’s response does not provide any information that refutes or undermines the multiple grounds for termination for cause set forth in the notice,” Athletic Director Alan Haller said in a statement to media, including Thamel. “Instead his 25-page response...provides a litany of excuses for his inappropriate behavior, while expressly admitting to the problematic conduct outlined in the notice.”
Last week, the school issued a public statement laying out their rationale for relieving Tucker of his duties, a requirement laid out in his contract. The university sought to void the remainder of the 10-year, $95 million pact they signed with Tucker in Nov. 2021.
Tucker’s attorneys responded to that statement with a lengthy 25-page letter disputing the allegations and saying they were not grounds for dismissal.
“Tucker did not engage in unprofessional or unethical behavior or ‘moral turpitude’ by any stretch of the imagination,” the letter read. “In fact, as discussed below, under Michigan law, assault and battery does not even constitute ‘moral turpitude,’ and the flimsy foundation of the university’s finding – a private relationship involving mutual flirting and one instance of consensual phone sex – falls far short of the mark.”
Michigan State was permitted to fire Tucker 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.
Tucker was suspended without pay earlier this month after the allegations emerged. Harlon Barnett was named the team’s acting head coach, with Mark Dantonio rejoining the staff on a temporary basis.
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.
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.”
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.