Mel Tucker, the highly-paid head coach of the Michigan State Spartans, has been suspended from his position following allegations of sexual harassment.
The suspension, announced by the university on Sunday, comes less than 24 hours after it was revealed that Tucker is the subject of an ongoing Title IX investigation.
Contrary to initial erroneous reports suggesting that Tucker had been fired, the university clarified that he is on leave without pay pending the outcome of the investigation, casting doubt on his future with the Spartans.
A formal hearing is scheduled to begin on October 5th to further address the allegations.
Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker has been suspended and his job status going forward is in doubt amid an ongoing university sexual harassment investigation, sources told @ESPNRittenberg and @PeteThamel.
— ESPN (@espn) September 10, 2023
The university has appointed secondary coach Harlon Barnett as the acting head coach, and Mark Dantonio, the highly successful former head coach of the Spartans, will return to the program as an associate head coach.
Dantonio will assume an on-field role, either on the sidelines or in the coaching booth, during games.
Michigan State Athletic Director Alan Haller explained that an external investigation, which concluded on July 25th, led to the scheduling of the formal hearing. He did not elaborate on why Tucker’s suspension was not implemented until Sunday, stating that interim measures had been in place, but circumstances had changed.
The allegations against Tucker stem from a complaint filed in December 2022 by Brenda Tracy, a rape survivor and advocate against sexual violence. Tracy accused Tucker of making sexually suggestive comments and engaging in inappropriate behavior during a phone call on April 28, 2022.
Tracy, who had visited Michigan State multiple times as an activist, shared the details of her complaint with USA Today. She alleges that Tucker’s behavior extended beyond the one incident, involving other inappropriate incidents as well.
Tracy, who was a victim of gang rape in 1998, has since dedicated herself to raising awareness about sexual violence in college sports.
In statements provided to the Title IX investigator, Tucker acknowledged the April 28th phone call but claimed it was a consensual encounter.
Prior to his suspension, Tucker had started the 2023 season with a 2-0 record in his fourth year as the Spartans head coach.
After leading the team to an 11-2 record in his second season, Tucker signed a lucrative 10-year, $95 million fully guaranteed contract with the university. However, the program’s performance has since dipped, with a 7-7 overall record and a 3-6 record in Big Ten play.
Tucker’s contract includes a clause that allows Michigan State to terminate his employment “for cause” if his conduct is deemed to constitute “moral turpitude” or if the university believes that such conduct has brought embarrassment to the institution.
This incident further challenges Michigan State’s efforts to rebuild its reputation following the Larry Nassar scandal, in which decades-long complaints against the former MSU physician and USA Gymnastics doctor accused of sexually assaulting hundreds of female athletes were overlooked.
Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison in verdicts handed down in 2017-18, sparking widespread outrage and calls for institutional reform at the university.
This story will surely be interesting to follow. Tucker is still owed more than $77 million, and if he ends up being fired, he most likely won’t let that money slip away quietly.
Also, some people are skeptical about the accuser. As time goes on, more and more details are likely to come out. We’ll see where all of this leads…
So the entire case against Mel Tucker, essentially, is that he had phone sex once? And the woman claimed she froze & couldn’t hang up on him. So she claims phone sex was nonconsensual?! But they had 27 phone calls for an average of over 30+ minutes prior! https://t.co/k9jg3TkhMK
— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) September 10, 2023