Due to newly emerged allegations of sexual misconduct, Michigan State University’s football head coach, Mel Tucker, is currently facing suspension without receiving his salary, leading to a substantial disruption during his fourth season with the team. The university made this announcement on Sunday, and it marks a pivotal moment in Tucker’s career.
“I have suspended Mel Tucker without pay as an additional interim measure while the investigation continues,” stated MSU Vice President and Athletic Director Alan Haller during a hastily convened press conference on Sunday afternoon. He emphasized, “I made this decision with the support of university leadership.”
The allegations were brought to light by Brenda Tracy, a rape survivor and prominent activist, who accused Tucker of making sexual comments towards her and engaging in sexual behavior without her consent during a phone call in April 2022, while she was involved in advocacy work with the Spartans. These allegations were revealed in a recent USA TODAY investigation. Tucker admitted to engaging in sexual activity during the call with Tracy but claimed it was consensual “phone sex.”
Tracy filed a complaint with the university’s Title IX office in December, a fact that Haller acknowledged. In response to the allegations, Michigan State initiated an external Title IX investigation, which concluded in July. A formal hearing to determine if Tucker violated school policy is scheduled to take place during the Spartans’ bye week in early October.
Haller cited new developments in the case as the reason for Tucker’s suspension, stating that it was done “in the best interest of everyone, including student-athletes and the university community.” Due to the ongoing investigation, Haller was unable to provide additional details but assured the public that the university’s primary focus remains on “conducting a fair, thorough, and unbiased investigation.”
As of the start of the 2023-24 college football season, the Spartans boast a 2-0 record, including a dominant 45-14 victory over Richmond. The team is set to face Washington next week, but Tucker will not be on the sidelines. In his absence, Michigan State’s defensive coordinator, Harlon Barnett, will serve as the interim head coach. Additionally, Mark Dantonio, who previously led MSU from 2007 to 2019, will return to the program as an associate head coach.
Tucker, who took the reins at Michigan State in 2020, agreed to a substantial 10-year, $95 million salary contract extension just a year later. His coaching record with the Spartans stands at 20-14.
Michigan State has been marred by past scandals related to sexual misconduct, most notably its failure to address allegations against Larry Nassar, a former U.S.A. Gymnastics and campus physicians were convicted of sexually assaulting hundreds of female athletes. The university’s leaders were heavily criticized for not taking action sooner, and Nassar is currently serving a lengthy prison sentence. In response to the recent allegations against Tucker, Michigan State President Teresa K. Woodruff emphasized the university’s commitment to transparency and accountability, asserting that the institution has changed and that an independent and unbiased investigation is ongoing.
In light of the suspension, Tucker’s future with Michigan State remains uncertain, pending the outcome of the investigation and the subsequent hearing scheduled for October.