Michigan State University recently announced the termination of football coach Mel Tucker for cause. The university took this step after initiating the process last week. The reason behind Tucker’s dismissal is accusations of sexual harassment made against him by Brenda Tracy, a prominent sexual assault speaker. Tracy alleges that Tucker sexually harassed her during a phone call in April 2022. While Tucker admits to engaging in phone sex with Tracy, he claims it was consensual. His attorney argues that there is no valid reason for Michigan State to fire him, as he did not engage in unprofessional or unethical behavior.
Unfortunately for Tucker, Michigan State has a different perspective. In a statement, the university asserts that Tucker’s contract is being terminated due to his admitted and undisputed behaviors, which have brought public disrespect, contempt, and ridicule upon the institution. These actions are considered a breach of his agreement and an instance of moral turpitude. Alan Haller, Michigan State’s vice president and director of intercollegiate athletics, emphasizes that Tucker’s response fails to provide any information that undermines the grounds for termination stated in the notice. Instead, his lengthy response attempts to make excuses for his inappropriate behavior while admitting to the problematic conduct outlined in the notice.
By firing Tucker for cause, Michigan State avoids paying the remaining $79 million owed on his $95 million, ten-year contract signed in 2021. The university states that its investigation into Tucker’s actions is ongoing, working in conjunction with the Office for Civil Rights. In an earlier statement dated September 18, Haller had already announced the university’s intention to terminate Tucker’s employment for cause. The investigation into Tracy’s complaint began in December 2022. Tucker’s attorney, Jennifer Belveal, disputes the notion of moral turpitude and claims that the university was aware of Tucker’s acknowledgment of engaging in phone sex with Tracy during the previous investigation in March. Belveal states that Tucker did not breach the agreement in any capacity, nor did he engage in unprofessional or unethical behavior. She argues that even assault and battery do not constitute moral turpitude, and the university’s findings are weak, centered around a private relationship involving mutual flirting and one instance of consensual phone sex.
During Tucker’s suspension, Harlon Barnett has taken on the interim head coach role at Michigan State. The university plans to find a permanent replacement for Tucker soon.