EAST LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — Football coach Mel Tucker has been suspended without pay, Michigan State Director of Athletics Alan Haller announced in a Sunday evening press conference.
The suspension comes in the wake of sexual harassment allegations against the MSU coach.
USA Today reported shortly after midnight Sunday that Tucker is the subject of an ongoing investigation within MSU’s Title IX office, since university contractor, educator and rape survivor Brenda Tracy filed a complaint against Tucker with that office in December 2022, as confirmed by Nexstar’s WLNS.
In the complaint obtained by USA Today, Tracy alleges that Tucker made sexual comments about her and masturbated during an April 2022 phone call. Tracy told the news outlet that the incident had triggered memories from her 1998 rape by four men, two of which were Oregon State University football players.
Tucker had acknowledged in statements to the Title IX investigator that he had masturbated while on the phone with Tracy, but that in those same statements, he chalked up the encounter to consensual “phone sex.”
In her report, Tracy also cited multiple other incidents of misconduct in 2021 and 2022.
Tracy visited MSU at least three times as an educator, beginning in 2021, including the time she was recognized as an honorary captain at an MSU spring football game. A rape survivor, Tracy is the founder of the organization Set the Expectation, which works with men and organizations to advocate for an end to gender-based violence and inequality.
Tracy was paid by MSU as an independent contractor, to provide anti-sexual assault and anti-rape education, at the time that her alleged conversations with Tucker occurred.
USA Today reported that Tucker told the university’s investigator, “[Tracy] held a vendetta against Spartan athletics because of its history of sexual misconduct scandals and falsely accused him for financial gain.”
Though documents show Tracy reported the incident to MSU’s Title IX office in December 2022, Michigan State only publicly responded to the allegations and acted to suspend Coach Tucker after the story broke in USA Today on Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023.
After the university’s news conference on Sunday, Haller said MSU had suspended Tucker without pay, pending the results of an outside investigation into the allegations. Haller said secondary coach Harlon Barnett would take over as interim head coach, while former head coach Mark Dantonio would return to the program, though Dantonio’s intended role is not yet declared.
Haller said in the news conference Sunday that he had not immediately suspended Tucker in July when a Title IX attorney’s investigation into the allegations had concluded. He said the university was constantly monitoring what “interim measures” were necessary based on evolving information. He declined to explain what had changed since July 25 when the investigatory report was completed, Sunday evening. A hearing set for Oct. 5-6 will determine whether or not Tucker violated MSU’s sexual harassment and exploitation policy.
Haller said Sunday the university’s previous interim measures included a no-contact order with Tracy and Haller’s increased oversight of Tucker and the program.
Tracy’s attorney, Karen Truszkowski, has declined to comment on the record at this time.
Mel Tucker spent a short time as the head coach of the University of Colorado Buffaloes before leaving for Michigan State in 2020.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.