[Updated at 4:17 pm ET] The Title IX investigation into sexual harassment claims against head football coach Mel Tucker has been ongoing since December of 2022, but it only took a few hours of media scrutiny for MSU to decide to discipline him. Funny how that works.
Per Sports Illustrated, Tucker has been suspended. (See more below. We will continue to update as the story develops.)
Mel Tucker has seemingly coached his last game at Michigan State after speaker and sexual assault prevention advocate Brenda Tracy accused him of sexual harassment, filing a complaint with MSU’s Title IX department in December of 2022, according to USA Today.
Updated Sept. 12: Tucker released a statement saying that the allegations are “completely false.”
Tucker, who is married with two children, signed a 10-year, $95 million contract last November, and reportedly told an independent Title IX investigator hired by the university that his “relationship” with Tracy was “mutually consensual and intimate.” Tracy, however, tells a much different story.
Michigan St. athletic director, Alan Haller, released this non-statement statement Sunday, according to the Athletic: “Interim measures were in place, and those interim measures have been updated. Initially, there was (to be) no contact with the complainant and then also increased oversight from me of the program but then also the coach. So, it’s an ongoing process, and we made those interim measures as we receive information.”
Tracy, who has made a career out of speaking to college sports programs about being raped 25 years ago, first met Tucker in August of 2021, when she was at Michigan State to speak to the football team about preventing sexual assault. Tracy returned to MSU in April of 2022, and that was when Tucker’s alleged sexual harassment began.
From the USA Today report: “According to her complaint, Tracy sat frozen for several minutes while Tucker made sexual comments about her and masturbated. His violation, she said, reopened 25-year-old wounds from her rape by four men – two Oregon State University football players, a junior college player and a high school recruit.”
“The idea that someone could know me and say they understand my trauma but then re-inflict that trauma on me is so disgusting to me, it’s hard for me to even wrap my mind around it,” she told USA TODAY. “It’s like he sought me out just to betray me.”
On another occasion, according to the report, Tucker allegedly asked Tracy if she would date him if he were single.
“Once, Tucker called Tracy via FaceTime. He was in bed, shirtless. He talked about his unhappy marriage, describing himself as ‘more or less single.’ Then, during a Nov. 9, 2021, call, she said he asked her, ‘If I wasn’t a football coach and if I wasn’t married, would you date me?’”
Tucker reportedly told the Title IX investigator a much different story, saying that he and Tracy had mutual phone sex. Later, Tucker sued the University to stop Tracy’s Title IX investigation from going forward, but was unsuccessful.
“Ms. Tracy’s distortion of our mutually consensual and intimate relationship into allegations of sexual exploitation has really affected me,” Tucker wrote in the March 22 letter to the investigator, according to the USA Today report. “I am not proud of my judgment and I am having difficulty forgiving myself for getting into this situation, but I did not engage in misconduct by any definition.”
The allegations against Tucker raise several questions, the first being why Tucker has been allowed to start the season coaching his team, as the university has known about these allegations since December of 2022. Secondly, given that Michigan State was recently excoriated (and rightly so), for it’s mishandling of the Larry Nassar case, in which more than 300 girls claim to have been sexually assaulted by the former Michigan State doctor, it seems clear that the university hasn’t learned much about handling allegations of sexual misconduct.
The Nassar case cost the MSU more than $500 million, led to the resignation of University president Lou Anna Simon and athletic director Mark Hollis, and tarnished the name of the institution for years to come. And the Nassar debacle wasn’t the only time Michigan State has been accused of dropping the ball when it comes to allegations of sexual wrongdoing. In 2018, an Outside the Lines (RIP) investigation found that MSU coaches routinely ignored their duties to promptly report Title IX violations to the proper authorities and created an environment wherein abusive players were rarely held accountable for their transgressions. In one case, then head football coach Mike Dantonio reportedly dealt with allegations of sexual assault by merely “making the player speak with his own mother about his actions.”
The Tucker investigation remains open, with a hearing on the matter set for early October, during a Michigan State bye week. Whether Tucker will be on the sidelines until then remains to be seen.
But per Big Ten Network’s Nicole Auerbach and ESPN, Tucker has merely been suspended. Stay tuned to see if Michigan State can get its act together on one single thing today.