Michigan State University's head football coach, Mel Tucker, has been suspended without pay amid an ongoing investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct. The decision to suspend Tucker was announced by university officials on Sunday following a report in USA Today detailing accusations made by Brenda Tracy, a rape survivor and advocate against sexual abuse. Tracy and Tucker had previously worked together to combat the culture of sexual violence in college sports.
According to the report, Tracy alleged that Tucker had sexually harassed her, including making sexual comments and masturbating during a phone call on April 28, 2022. Tracy filed a formal Title IX complaint with the university in December. The university's vice president and director of intercollegiate athletics, Alan Haller, stated during a news conference that Tucker's suspension was based on "developments that may have a potential impact on the ongoing investigation."
Michigan State had already played two games in the fall football season, with Tucker coaching both games. The university had hired an investigator who completed and submitted her report on the case in July. Haller defended the decision to keep Tucker on as head coach until the university had completed its formal process. A hearing regarding the allegations is scheduled for October 5-6.
Tucker, who became head coach at Michigan State in 2020, signed a 10-year, $95 million contract extension in 2021, making him one of the highest-paid coaches in college football. In response to the allegations, Tucker denied engaging in any misconduct, claiming that his relationship with Tracy was consensual and intimate.
The suspension of Tucker brings back memories of the university's mishandling of sexual abuse reports involving Larry Nassar, the former physician for the American gymnastics team who was employed by Michigan State. Nassar's case led to heavy criticism of the university. Interim Michigan State University President Teresa K. Woodruff emphasized that the university is committed to creating a culture that is welcoming, supportive, and caring.
In light of Tucker's suspension, Harlon Barnett, the secondary coach, will serve as the interim head coach, while former coach Mark Dantonio will return as an associate head coach. The university aims to conduct an independent and unbiased investigation to ensure a fair determination regarding Tucker's alleged misconduct.