Michigan State University officials on Monday delivered a notice of termination to the school’s head football coach Mel Tucker after a prominent rape survivor and activist recently accused him of sexual harassment during a phone call.
Tucker, 51, who signed a $95 million decade-long contract extension less than two years ago, made headlines last week after allegations against him became public in a USA Today report. In that report, Brenda Tracy — a rape survivor who educates athletes about sexual violence — said the football coach sexually harassed her during a phone call on April 28, 2022.
After the report was published, Michigan State officials suspended Tucker without pay on September 10, pending the results of a Title IX investigation over allegations of sexual misconduct.
Michigan State athletic director Alan Haller released a statement Monday afternoon announcing the university’s intent to terminate his contract.
“I, with the support of administration and board, have provided Mel Tucker with written notice of intent to terminate his contract for cause. This notification process is required as part of his existing contract,” Haller said in a university statement. “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.
“This action does not conclude the ongoing Office for Civil Rights case; that rigorous process will continue.”
According to his contract, Michigan State may fire Tucker for cause if he “engages in any conduct which constitutes moral turpitude or which, in the University’s sole judgment, would tend to bring public disrespect, contempt or ridicule upon the university.”
Haller’s four-page letter sent to Tucker’s representatives on Monday reportedly detailed the reasons behind the termination, saying, in part, “The university has become aware of various facts that have led to the unfortunate decision to terminate your employment for cause. At this point, the university has amassed a body of undisputed evidence of misconduct that warrants termination for cause.”
Tucker reportedly invited Tracy to the campus to speak three different times. On two occasions, Tracy spoke to the players and staff about sexual violence in sports culture and once to be recognized “as an honorary captain at the team’s spring football game,” USA Today reported.
However, according to a complaint filed with the university’s Title IX office in December, Tracy reportedly “sat frozen for several minutes while Tucker made sexual comments about her and masturbated.”
“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.”
According to the report, the school hired an outside Title IX attorney to investigate Tracy’s complaint, which was concluded in July.
Tucker, who is married and has two children, acknowledged the accusations made against him during the phone call but claimed they had consensual “phone sex” and the allegations were “completely false.”
“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 investigator, USA Today reported. “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.”
Tucker’s termination will reportedly cost the football coach more than $80 million.
Tucker is reportedly scheduled to appear in a formal hearing beginning on October 5.