Michigan State University fired Mel Tucker on Wednesday, saying the suspended football coach failed to present adequate reasons why he should not be fired for cause after havingwith an activist and rape survivor.
Brenda Tracy, the activist and rape survivor, said that Tucker made sexual comments to her and masturbated without her consent during an April 2022 phone call. Tracy filed a complaint about Tucker's behavior with Michigan State's Title IX office in Dec. 2022. The school completed an investigation into the complaint in late July but did not choose to suspend Tucker at the time,.
It wasn't until Tracy's allegations were published by USA Today in Sept. 2023 that he was suspended,. The school informed Tucker that it planned to fire him on Sept. 18, and on Wednesday the school carried out the firing. In a termination letter reviewed by CBS News, the school said it fired Tucker for acknowledging actions that subjected the institution to ridicule, breaching his contract and moral turpitude.
"Simply put, Mr. Tucker's response does not provide any information that refutes or undermines the multiple grounds for termination for cause set forth in the notice," athletic director Alan Haller said in the letter. "Instead, his 25-page response, which includes a 12-page letter from his attorney and a 13-page 'expert report,' provides a litany of excuses for his inappropriate behavior while expressly admitting to the problematic conduct outlined in the notice."
The letter said that because Tracy was acting as a vendor for Michigan State — she is known for her work with college teams educating athletes about sexual violence, and she had been paid $10,000 by the university to share her story with the football team — it was "immaterial" if the interaction was consensual.
"As the University previously stated, 'it is decidedly unprofessional and unethical to flirt, make sexual comments, and masturbate while on the phone with a University vendor,'" Haller wrote. "Your unconvincing rationalizations and misguided attempts to shift responsibility cannot and do not excuse your own behavior."
A hearing is scheduled for Oct. 5-6 to determine if Tucker violated Michigan State's sexual harassment and exploitation policy, according to CBS Detroit.
Messages seeking comment were left with Tucker's attorney and agent. Tucker's attorney Jennifer Belveal told the Associated Press in a statement that Tucker had acknowledged having consensual phone sex with Tracy during the school's initial investigation, which she said showed that the "investigation was never interested in the truth."
Tucker, who said he has been estranged from his wife for years and has two children, said the allegations against him are "completely false."
"I can only conclude that there is an ulterior motive designed to terminate my contract based on some other factor such as a desire to avoid any (Nassar) taint, or my race or gender," Tucker, who is Black, said in a response his attorney shared earlier this month.
Tucker is in the third year of a 10-year, $95 million contract. The remainder of the contract has been canceled, the letter said. If the school gets its way, he will lose about $80 million.
Tucker began his coaching career with Nick Saban as a graduate assistant for the Spartans in 1997. He returned to the school with one of the biggest contracts in college sports after leading Colorado for one season and serving as an assistant coach at Georgia, Alabama and Ohio State.
Tucker also worked in the NFL, leading the Jacksonville Jaguars as interim coach during the 2011 season.
He was 20-14 in three-plus seasons at Michigan State, which he led to 11 wins in 2021, and his career record as a college football head coach is 25-21.
The Spartans (2-2, 0-1 Big Ten) play at Iowa (3-1, 0-1) on Saturday, and will be led by interim coach Harlon Barnett for a third game.
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