Michigan State University intends to fire head football coach Mel Tucker after the coach was accused of sexual harassment, the university announced Monday.
“I, with the support of administration and board, have provided Mel Tucker with written notice of intent to terminate his contract for cause,” the school’s vice president and director of athletics Alan Haller said in a news release. “This notification process is required as part of his existing contract. The notice provides Tucker with seven calendar days to respond and present reasons to me and the interim president as to why he should not be terminated for cause.”
The move comes just over a week after USA Today reported Tucker was under investigation for alleged sexual harassment, leading the university to suspend him without pay.
In a statement Tuesday, Tucker said the university knew since at least March about the information it relied on to end his contract. He said the move to terminate him only came after the allegation was leaked to the press.
“The investigation is designed to determine if I violated policy. I did not. But regardless, basic fairness requires that process play out before any sanction(s) are determined,” he wrote.
Tucker also said the notice came after he emailed Haller to request medical leave “for a serious health condition.”
When asked about Tucker’s statement, Michigan State University said it had no additional comment beyond the notice of intent and statement sent Monday.
According to the USA Today report, Tucker is alleged to have made sexual comments and masturbated while on a phone call with Brenda Tracy, an advocate and rape survivor.
Tracy reported her call with Tucker to the university’s Title IX office, USA Today reported. “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 USA Today. “It’s like he sought me out just to betray me.”
The investigation into the coach’s conduct began in December 2022, Haller said at a news conference earlier this month.
Tucker, a defensive coach in college and the NFL over the past two decades, became Michigan State’s head coach in 2020. In his second season, the team went a sterling 11-2, and he signed a massive 10-year, $95 million contract that made him one of the highest paid coaches in college football. Last year, though, the team finished a disappointing 5-7, including blowout losses to rivals Michigan and Ohio State.
University says Tucker violated policy
The university released a copy of the notice they sent Tucker, along with a copy of his employment agreement signed in 2021 – which they claim he violated and admitted to violating during the investigation.
The notice says Tucker “made unwelcome sexual advances towards” an activist contracted by the university to provide sexual misconduct education to the school’s football team. Tucker “masturbated on a phone call without her consent,” the document says.
“While the formal grievance process proceeds, the above-described undisputed facts provide multiple grounds for termination under the Agreement’s Early Termination Provision,” the notice to Tucker reads.
The notice claims Tucker admitted to making comments about the activist’s body, made flirtatious comments, masturbated and made “sexually explicit comments” about himself and her while on a phone call with the activist.
The coach’s behavior “constitutes a material breach” of his duties, “demonstrates ‘conduct which constitutes moral turpitude,’” and “has brought ‘public disrespect, contempt, or ridicule upon the University,” all of which are grounds for his firing, according to the document.
“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 conduct,” the document reads.
The school is conducting an investigation into the incident in accordance with its “Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct” policy and Title IX.
An attorney for Tracy, Karen Truszkowski, said no police report was filed. She issued a statement on behalf of her client last week.
“Brenda Tracy had no intention of publicly disclosing her identity,” the statement read. “She was and continues to be committed to complying with and concluding the MSU internal investigative process. She respected the process and chose not to go to the media to preserve the integrity of the process.
“After the investigation process was completed, we would have determined, what, if any further steps to take. Instead, her identity was disclosed without her knowledge or consent, warranting express actions to protect her. Her choice to allow this process to proceed privately was taken away.”