Michigan State University has suspended football coach Mel Tucker without pay following allegations of sexual harassment made by activist and rape survivor Brenda Tracy. The suspension comes after a USA Today report revealed the allegations on Sunday. University President Teresa K. Woodruff and athletic director Alan Haller announced the suspension pending the results of an external investigation into the matter.
The university hired a Title IX attorney to investigate Tracy’s complaint, and the investigation concluded on July 25. A hearing is scheduled for the week of October 5 to determine if Tucker violated the school’s sexual harassment and exploitation policy. Tucker was instructed not to have any contact with Tracy after the investigative report was completed, and Haller stated that he would increase his oversight of Tucker and the football program.
Harlon Barnett, the secondary coach, will serve as the team’s interim coach, while former coach Mark Dantonio has been named associate head coach during Tucker’s suspension. Tucker, who is in the third year of a $95 million, 10-year contract, may be fired for cause, which would exempt the university from paying the remaining amount on his deal. According to Tucker’s contract, the university can terminate him if he engages in conduct that brings public disrespect, contempt, or ridicule upon the university.
Michigan State has faced previous scandals, including the sexual misconduct case involving former sports doctor Larry Nassar. Woodruff emphasized that the university takes accusations seriously and conducts thorough investigations, providing resources that were lacking in the past.
Tracy, known for her work in educating athletes about sexual violence, alleged that Tucker sexually harassed her during a phone call in April 2022. Tucker admitted to investigators that he masturbated during the call but claimed it was consensual “phone sex.” Tucker is married and has two children.
Michigan State’s decision to suspend Tucker without pay is a response to the serious allegations of sexual harassment. The university will await the results of the external investigation before making any further decisions regarding Tucker’s future with the program.