Michigan State Says Fired Football Coach Violated Its Sexual Harassment Policy

The finding against Mel Tucker stems from an investigation into claims lodged by a woman hired to speak to athletes about sexual violence prevention.

Michigan State University found that its former football coach Mel Tucker violated the school’s sexual harassment policy after launching an investigation into allegations brought forward by a rape survivor and activist.

According to a USA Today investigation from September, activist Brenda Tracy filed a Title IX complaint against Tucker in December 2022 alleging that he sexually harassed her over the phone in April 2022, eight months after she had been hired to speak to the football team about sexual violence prevention.

The complaint claimed that Tucker masturbated while on the phone with Tracy without her consent and made several sexual comments toward her, according to documents acquired by USA Today.

The university hired a Title IX attorney in Michigan to investigate the allegations, which began with Tracy’s witness interviews in January. Tucker repeatedly said that he and Tracy had been in a consensual, romantic relationship, ABC News reported.

A Michigan State hearing officer issued a 73-page report Wednesday determining that Tucker had sexually harassed and exploited Tracy when he “non-consensually masturbated and used graphic, sexual language” in their 2022 phone call. The report added that Tucker made unwanted sexual advances toward Tracy in the months before the call and engaged in quid pro quo sexual harassment afterward, when she rejected his sexual advances.

The investigation had revealed evidence concluding that Tucker had made sexual advances months before the phone call at the center of the complaint, as well as repeatedly asking Tracy to meet him alone at a hotel during a game in 2022, USA Today reported.

The hearing officer also wrote in the report that Tucker’s account was difficult to believe due to contradictory statements he made during the months-long probe into the allegations, along with his failure to provide witnesses and documentation proving that he’d had a romantic relationship with Tracy.

In January, Tucker tried to stop the investigation by urging MSU to drop Tracy’s complaint, USA Today reported. He sent a 12-page letter to the school arguing that the investigation lacked jurisdiction since his relationship with Tracy was “purely personal.” The university allowed the investigation to proceed.

According to USA Today, campus sexual harassment hearings can result in disciplinary action, including employee termination. In September, shortly after Tracy’s allegations went public in the USA Today investigation, the university suspended Tucker without pay pending the results of the investigation, which was scheduled to be decided in a hearing on Oct. 5.

Tucker was fired with cause a few weeks later with nearly $80 million remaining in his coaching contract.

“The university terminated Tucker’s contract for his admitted and undisputed behaviors which have brought public disrespect, contempt and ridicule upon the university; and constitute a material breach of his agreement, and moral turpitude,” MSU said in a statement in September.

Within the next 10 days, Tucker can file an appeal in which he can either argue that the decision reached was unjust or file new evidence to the hearing officer. If the school denies the appeal, the decision reached in the report released Wednesday will be final.

In a statement sent to ESPN in September, Tucker called the hearing a “sham” and claimed that he wasn’t given a fair trial. He added that the university’s decision to fire him was a “miscarriage of justice” and that there had been bias throughout the process.

HuffPost reached out to Michigan State University for comment and to obtain documents from the investigation but did not immediately receive a response. Tracy did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.

Popular in the Community


What's Hot