Michigan State informed suspended football coach Mel Tucker on Monday that he will be fired without compensation for misconduct involving activist and rape survivor Brenda Tracy in a sordid case that dates back more than a year.
“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,” athletic director Alan Haller said in a statement released by the school.
If Tucker does not present “sufficient reasons to dispute” multiple contract violations, the school will fire him Sept. 26, three days after the program's Big Ten opener in what was hoped to be a bounce-back year for the Spartans.
Tucker is in the third year of a $95 million, 10-year contract and if he is fired for cause, the school would not have to pay him what’s remaining on his deal. Tucker, his agent and his attorney did not immediately return messages seeking comment.
Haller said the decision does not affect the ongoing investigation into Tracy's allegations of sexual harassment, which is being handled by the school's office for civil rights.
Tracy said Tucker sexually harassed her during a phone call in April 2022. Several months later, Tracy filed a complaint with the school’s Title IX office and the investigation was completed in July. A hearing is scheduled for the week of Oct. 5 to determine if Tucker violated the school’s sexual harassment and exploitation policy and a ruling could take up to 60 days.
Tracy's allegations were made public by USA Today earlier this month. The 51-year-old Tucker, who said he is estranged from his wife and has two children, said the allegations against him are “completely false.” Tucker insisted that the intimate phone call he had with Tracy was consensual and outside the scope of both Title IX and school policy.
The school, however, said the actions Tucker acknowledged were unprofessional and unethical. It told Tucker he is being fired for "breaches” in his contract and for engaging “in any conduct which constitutes moral turpitude or which, in the university’s sole judgement, would tend to bring public disrespect, contempt or ridicule upon the university."
Tracy is known for her work with college teams educating athletes about sexual violence. Michigan State paid her $10,000 to share her story with the football team.
The Spartans (2-1) were routed 41-7 by No. 8 Washington on Saturday in Harlon Barnett’s debut as interim coach. Michigan State hosts Maryland (3-0) on Saturday.
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.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll
Larry Lage, The Associated Press