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Mel Tucker Fired as Michigan State University’s Head Football Coach

A letter sent to Tucker Wednesday from the university rehashes Tucker’s admitted actions toward sexual violence advocate Brenda Tracy as misconduct.

Mel Tucker coach of the Michigan State Spartans looks on in the first half of a game against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Spartan Stadium on November 12, 2022 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Mike Mulholland/Getty Images)

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Michigan State University fired head football coach Mel Tucker on Wednesday on the grounds that he violated the ethical conduct portion of his contract.

The letter sent to Tucker Wednesday from the university rehashes Tucker’s admitted actions toward sexual violence advocate Brenda Tracy as misconduct. Tracy reports that Tucker sexually harassed her, whereas Tucker said they had a consensual flirtatious relationship.

Tucker was less than two years into his 10-year, $95 million contract.

MSU alerted Tucker to his impending termination on Sept. 18.

“At this point, the University has amassed a body of undisputed evidence of misconduct that warrants termination for cause,” the notification to Tucker last week said.“The unprofessional and unethical behavior is particularly egregious given that the Vendor at issue was contracted by the University for the sole purpose of educating student-athletes on, and preventing instances of, inappropriate sexual misconduct. Your admitted conduct — engaging in sexual extramarital behavior with a University vendor­ rises to the level of a material breach of your contractual duty to the University to conduct yourself in a professional and ethical manner ‘at all times.’”

Tucker has admitted to making sexual comments at Tracy and in particular, he admitted to masturbating on a phone call with her on April 28, 2022, which was the crux of the complaint Tracy made to the university in December 2022, saying it was non consensual and sexual harassment.

Information about the phone call became public with a USA Today investigation published earlier in September. Tracy is an advocate who travels to schools, including MSU, to create awareness for sexual violence. In Tracy’s comments to USA Today and in several comments posted to her social media accounts, she said she did not consent to Tuckers conduct on the call.

Tucker’s attorneys responded to the university’s notification of intent on Monday, outlining in 25 pages that what Tucker did does not fulfill an ethical violation in his contract 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.”

The letter from Tuckers’ attorneys say there is evidence of consent from Tracy to the call and evidence of a relationship before and after the calls. The attorneys add that, “there is no MSU policy that requires anyone to have consent for phone sex.”

“Focusing on consent for the question of whether a hostile environment exists is a mistake,” the letter reads. “There is evidence that she continued to contact MGT for personal reasons thereafter, thus undercutting any argument for unwelcomeness. If the conduct was welcome, then it cannot create a hostile environment and the complaint must be dismissed.”

The termination letter sent out by MSU says that Tucker’s legal team clearly had enough time to understand the university’s concerns, but it fails to address why Tucker should not be fired.

“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. “Instead, his 25-page response, which includes a 12-page letter from his attorney and a 13-page ‘expert report,’ provides a litany of excuses for his inappropriate behavior while expressly admitting to the problematic conduct.”

A formal hearing to review the results of the university’s investigation into Tracy’s report is scheduled for Oct. 5 and 6.

Michigan Advance is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Michigan Advance maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Susan Demas for questions: info@michiganadvance.com. Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.

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