Almost a month after being dismissed as the head coach of the Michigan State football program, Mel Tucker has been found guilty of violating the university’s sexual harassment policy.
However, the former MSU and Colorado head coach is set to appeal and is threatening legal action against the university in light of Wednesday’s announcement.
Mel Tucker to Appeal Michigan State Hearing Finding Him Guilty of Sexual Harassment
Following a hearing in early October, Michigan State determined that former head coach Tucker violated the university’s sexual harassment policy during an Apr. 2022 incident where he made sexual comments and masturbated during a telephone conversation with rape survivor Brenda Tracy.
The hearing follows a Dec. 2022 complaint from Tracy about Tucker’s actions which triggered an investigation by the program, an initial suspension without pay, the notice of intention to fire for cause, and ultimately the Michigan State head coach’s dismissal at the end of September.
Tucker has never denied the actions that led to his dismissal, which include:
- Commenting to the Vendor about her looks, body, and body parts, specifically her “ass.”
- Making flirtatious comments to the Vendor (Tracy) in conversations that you state “happened often.”
- Masturbating and making sexually explicit comments about yourself and the Vendor while on the phone with the Vendor, which you describe as “phone sex” and “a late-night intimate conversation.”
However, he has, throughout, insisted that his actions were part of a “relationship” with Tracy that was entirely consensual in nature.
Ms. Tracy contests his version of events, and the 73-page report issued as a result of the hearing this month concluded that the former Michigan State head coach had “sexually harassed and exploited Tracy during the April phone call.”
While that would appear to draw a line under an 18-month ordeal for Ms. Tracy, Tucker remains adamant that he has been unfairly treated in the process.
On Thursday, the former Michigan State head coach issued a strongly worded statement via his agent, that continues to state his case against the university and their handling of the affair.
“The decision is fraught with countless factual and legal errors,” the statement reads, “all of which will be the subject of an immediate appeal and subsequent lawsuit if necessary.”
The statement goes on to criticize the hearing given that — according to Tucker and his representation — the “punishment” had already been administered, ensuring the potential for an overturning of his dismissal “beyond the realm of reasonable possibility.”
Given the wording and tone of Tucker’s response to the hearing’s finding, it would appear that rather than being completely resolved, this situation is far from over. The statement contains several jibes in the direction of Ms. Tracy, giving the air of potentially murky mudslinging to come as the appeal plays out.
Meanwhile, the Spartans are 0-5 under interim head coach Harlan Barnett, having started the season 2-0 under Tucker. Withstanding the disrupted 2020 campaign, the program is on course for its worst season since 2016 under Mark Dantonio, who returned to the program following Tucker’s dismissal.
Mel Tucker Timeline of Events
How did Tucker come to be found guilty of violating the Michigan State sexual harassment policy, leading to his dismissal for cause? The timeline of events as far as we know them is below.
- Apr. 2022: The events that triggered the investigation and subsequent suspension and dismissal are said to have occurred. They center around a phone call between Tracy and Tucker, who is said to have made sexual comments and masturbated — against the consent of the alleged victim.
- Dec. 2022: Tracy files a complaint against the former Michigan State head coach to the university Title IX office, triggering an investigation.
- July 2023: An anonymous complainant until now, Tracy’s identity is revealed to the Michigan State administration at the completion of the preliminary investigation. At this point, the MSU athletic director limits contract between Tucker and his alleged victim.
- Sep. 10, 2023: Following an alleged leak of her identity, Tracy shares documents that form the USA Today report that brings Tucker’s activity into the public arena. Michigan State responds to the report by suspending their head coach without pay.
- Sep. 11, 2023: Tucker officially responds to the allegations, with Tracy issuing a counter-response. Government involvement in the case comes in the form of Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, herself a survivor of sexual abuse.
- Sep. 18, 2023: Tucker is given notice of the intention to terminate his contract for cause. The former head coach is told he has until Sep. 26 to explain why he shouldn’t be fired.
- Sep. 25, 2023: Tucker officially responds to the notice of intention, calling the decision “terribly flawed, unfair, biased, and devoid of due process.”
- Sep. 27, 2023: Tucker is officially dismissed as the head coach of the Michigan State football program.
- Oct. 5 and 6: A hearing is held to decide whether Tucker violated Michigan State University policy on relationship violence and sexual misconduct.
- Oct. 25: The aforementioned hearing finds that Tucker did in fact violate the Michigan State University sexual harassment policy, giving the administration just cause for his dismissal.
- Oct. 26: Tucker, via his agent, gives statement indicating that he will appeal the program’s sexual harassment ruling against him.