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Michigan State clarifies Mel Tucker’s status amid investigation

Mel Tucker on the field

Michigan State’s head coach Mel Tucker walks the field before the football game against Central Michigan on Friday, Sept. 1, 2023, at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing. Photo Credit: Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

Mel Tucker appears to be on his way out at Michigan State, but the head coach has not been fired yet.

Reports surfaced on Sunday that Tucker had been fired amid an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment. However, Michigan State later held a press conference in which athletic director Alan Haller announced that Tucker has been suspended without pay.

“The university’s formal conclusion of the investigation will occur once the hearing and final decision processes are complete. I want to emphasized again — this investigation is not complete. … As there have been new developments before the hearing and in the best interest of everyone, including student athletes and the university community in mind, I have suspended Mel Tucker without pay as an additional interim measure,” Haller said.

Brett McMurphy of Action Network was the first to report on Sunday that Tucker had been fired. He is standing by that report and said sources told him the suspension is “just a formality.”

Michigan State hired an outside Title IX attorney to investigate a claim that was filed against Tucker last December by sexual assault prevention advocate Brenda Tracy. Tracy in 2014 publicly alleged that she was raped by four men, including two former Oregon State football players, in the late 1990s. She has since started a nonprofit called Set The Expectation and travels around the country speaking with student-athletes and coaches about preventing sexual misconduct.

Tracy developed a relationship with Tucker and the Michigan State program and visited the school several times between 2021 and 2022. She said Tucker made unwanted advances toward her and accused him of masturbating without her consent during a phone call between the two.

Tucker admitted to Michigan State’s Title IX investigator that he masturbated on the call but described the incident as mutual phone sex. He said he had a “mutually consensual and intimate” relationship with Tracy.

Tucker signed a 10-year, $95 million contract extension with Michigan State in November 2021. A clause in contract states that the school can fire him with cause “if the coach engaged in any conduct which constitutes moral turpitude or, which in the university’s reasonable judgment, would tend to bring public disrespect, contempt or ridicule.”

A hearing has reportedly been set for October, during which an outside Title IX attorney will determine whether the evidence shows Tucker violated school rules. Michigan State likely believes they will be able to fire Tucker without owing him the remainder of his contract after that.

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