Michigan State informs coach Mel Tucker it intends to fire him amid sexual harassment investigation

16:05 18.09.2023 - CBS News

EAST LANSING, Mich. (CBS DETROIT) - Michigan State University released a statement on Monday, Sept. 18, saying it intends to terminate the contract of football coach Mel Tucker for cause following a sexual harassment allegation.

In the statement, athletic director Alan Haller says Tucker has seven calendar days to respond "and present reasons to me and the interim president as to why he should not be terminated."

MSU Athletics sent a letter to Tucker and said the contract could be terminated early if the coach "engages in any conduct which constitutes moral turpitude or which, in the university's reasonable judgment, would tend to bring public disrespect, contempt or ridicule upon the university."

If fired, the university would not have to pay the third-year coach what's remaining of his $95 million, 10-year contract.

Read the full letter from MSU below:

Tucker is accused of sexually harassing activist and rape survivor Brenda Tracy during a phone call last year.

According to the report, Tracy became friends with Tucker over her advocacy work, but the relationship took a turn in April 2022 when he allegedly masturbated during the phone call.

Less than 24 hours after the allegation was made public in a USA Today report, MSU announced on Sunday, Sept. 10, that Tucker was suspended.

A hearing is scheduled for Oct. 5-6 to determine if Tucker violated MSU's sexual harassment and exploitation policy.

In a statement last week, Tucker said the allegation was "completely false." He admitted to having a "late-night intimate conversation" with Tracy but claims it was a mutual and "private event between two adults living at opposite ends of the country."

Tucker also claimed he and his wife were estranged for a period of time.

However, MSU said in the letter to Tucker: "Your comments about the vendor's 'a**,' admitted to flirtation, and act of masturbating on the phone with the vendor, while married, amount to moral turpitude."

In response to Tucker, Tracy accused him of "delaying and trying to stop the investigative process since the beginning."

On Tuesday, Sept. 12, Tracy's attorney, Karen Truszkowski, said her client's name was leaked to the media by an "outside party," and she had no intention of releasing her identity.

MSU says it plans to investigate the source of the leak that led to her identity being revealed.

/ Monday, September 18, 2023, 4:05 PM /

themes:  Detroit  Michigan

Michigan State moves to fire football coach Mel Tucker amid sexual harassment investigation

Michigan State University on Monday informed head football coach Mel Tucker of its intent to terminate his contract as the school weighs sexual harassment allegations against him.

Athletic Director Alan Haller wrote a letter to a sports management firm that represents Tucker detailing the intent. The letter states that Tucker admitted to behavior that violates terms of his contract.

Under a process outlined in Tucker's employment contract, the coach has seven calendar days to respond with reasons why he should not be fired, according to a school statement Monday.

USA Today first reported the allegations of sexual harassment against Tucker by a woman who said he made unwelcome sexual advances and masturbated on a phone call with her without her consent. The accusations were referenced in the university's letter to the coach this week.

The 51-year-old Tucker, who said he is estranged from his wife and has two children, told USA Today that the allegations against him are "completely false." Tucker insisted that an intimate phone call with his accuser was consensual and outside the scope of both Title IX and school policy.

The alleged behavior reportedly happened in 2022 with a woman under contract to provide a "sexual misconduct prevention educational program" to the Michigan State football team, according to the letter.

The vendor complained under federal civil rights law known as Title IX, and the university hired a third party to investigate the allegations. A separate investigation by the institution's Office for Civil Rights was also launched.

In the intent letter, Haller wrote that Tucker admitted to behavior that violates the terms of his contract, including a clause on "moral turpitude" that essentially forbids behavior that would draw to the institution "public disrespect, contempt, or ridicule."

The letter stated that Tucker admitted during the investigation to commenting on the vendor's body, flirting with the claimant, and "masturbating and making sexually explicit comments."

"The above-described undisputed facts provide multiple grounds for termination," Haller wrote.

A hearing on the matter was scheduled for Oct. 5 and 6. However, in the absence of sufficient reasons not to move forward, termination will be effective Sept. 26, Haller said.

Tucker is in the third year of a $95 million, 10-year contract and if he is fired for cause, the school would not have to pay him what's remaining on his deal.

"This action does not conclude the ongoing Office for Civil Rights case; that rigorous process will continue," the university said in its statement on Monday.

Michigan State to Fire Coach Mel Tucker Amid Sexual Harassment Probe

 ..... The decision comes after an investigation into the claims and Tucker's admission of behavior that violates the terms of his contract. In a letter to Tucker, Athletic Director Alan Haller stated that the coach has seven days to respond with reasons why he should not be fired.

 ..... The university referenced these accusations in their letter to Tucker. ..... The vendor filed a complaint under Title IX, prompting the university to launch an investigation by a third party. ..... 

The letter from Haller stated that Tucker admitted to behavior that violates the terms of his contract, including commenting on the vendor's body, engaging in flirtation, and making sexually explicit comments. These actions were deemed grounds for termination due to "moral turpitude," which forbids behavior that would bring public disrespect, contempt, or ridicule to the university.

 ..... However, if Tucker fails to provide sufficient reasons to halt the termination process, his contract will be terminated on September 26. Tucker, who is in the third year of a lucrative 10-year contract worth $95 million, may lose out on the remaining funds if he is fired for cause.

While the termination of Tucker's contract addresses the immediate issue, the university emphasized that the ongoing Office for Civil Rights case will continue to be thoroughly investigated. MSU is determined to ensure a rigorous process in handling the allegations.

The news of Tucker's impending termination has caused a stir in East Lansing, Michigan. MSU released a statement reiterating its intent to terminate the coach's contract, citing the sexual harassment allegation as the cause. ..... 

The university's letter to Tucker, shared in the statement, outlined the grounds for possible termination. It highlighted Tucker's alleged sexual harassment of activist and rape survivor Brenda Tracy during a phone call in April 2022. While Tucker vehemently denies the accusation, MSU considered his comments about the vendor's body, flirtation, and act of masturbating on the phone to be moral turpitude.

 ..... Tracy's attorney, Karen Truszkowski, also criticized the leak of her client's identity to the media by an external party. ..... 

As the termination process unfolds, the Michigan State University community and football fans eagerly await the outcome of the investigations and the resolution of this high-profile case.

Michigan State Coach Mel Tucker Denies Sexual Harassment Claims amid $6M Earnings

Michigan State head football coach Mel Tucker has been suspended without pay following allegations of sexual harassment. According to a report by USA Today, Tucker had been making $750,000 a month before his suspension, resulting in him earning at least $6 million since the university launched its investigation. The investigation was initiated after Brenda Tracy, a sexual assault prevention advocate, filed a formal complaint against Tucker in December 2022. Tracy accused Tucker of making unwanted sexual comments and engaging in inappropriate behavior during a phone call in April 2022.

Michigan State policy typically requires cases to be handled within 90 days of a formal complaint. However, Tucker's investigation took 216 days due to delays, including his refusal to sit down with investigators for three months. Once the investigation was completed on July 25, further delays occurred in scheduling a hearing. Initially set for Aug. 22 and 23, Tucker's attorney claimed that he was unavailable on those dates, resulting in the rescheduling of the proceedings for Oct. ..... 

On Monday, Tucker released a statement denying the allegations and criticizing the upcoming hearing as a "sham." He accused the university of lacking fairness and unbiasedness in its investigation and suggested ulterior motives, such as wanting to avoid any association with the Larry Nassar scandal or targeting him based on his race or gender.

Tracy, who had been invited to speak to the football team on multiple occasions, also responded to Tucker's statement, accusing him of attempting to delay and halt the investigative process. She expressed her intention to participate in the hearing and invited Tucker to do the same.

In response to the public disclosure of the allegations, Tucker claimed that he had a consensual, adult relationship with Tracy. He stated that Tracy had encouraged their personal relationship, which involved late-night phone calls discussing intimate matters. Tucker emphasized that Tracy initiated the discussion in question and sent him provocative pictures. He maintained that Tracy never objected or hung up during the phone call, which lasted 36 minutes.

Tucker criticized the fairness and impartiality of the investigation and claimed that the upcoming hearing was not designed to uncover the truth. He suggested that the university's handling of the situation was influenced by the Larry Nassar scandal, which involved the sexual abuse of athletes at Michigan State.

Michigan State hired Tucker in 2020, and he received a 10-year, $95 million contract extension in 2021. Since his appointment, Tucker has achieved a 20-14 record with the football program. The university's decision to suspend Tucker without pay follows the publication of the sexual harassment allegations by USA Today.

Mel Tucker says Michigan State pulled 'about-face' in investigation, 'other motives at play' to fire him

Michigan State said it intends to fire football coach Mel Tucker for cause.

Despite Mel Tucker denying all claims that he sexually harassed a rape survivor and assault awareness speaker, Michigan State University (MSU) says it intends to fire him for cause.

However, the football coach says that "other motives are at play," and he is "disappointed - but not surprised" by the university's decision.

"Let's be clear. I don't believe MSU plans to fire me because I admitted to an entirely consensual, private relationship with another adult who gave one presentation at MSU, at my behest, over two years ago," Tucker wrote Tuesday in a lengthy statement.

Tucker says the university did an "about-face," knowing about the reasons it intends to fire him for cause since at least March. But the school decided that the grounds of the complaint warranted termination once the information was leaked.

"MSU is punishing me for Ms. [Brenda] Tracy's leak, which violated MSU's rules regarding confidentiality of the investigation," Tucker wrote.

Tucker also noted that he would be suspended as an "interim measure" and "while the investigation continues," but the school decided to terminate him "with no new information." MSU is "sanctimoniously and illogically claiming this action has no impact on the ongoing investigation," says Tucker.

Tucker stated Michigan State ignored his concerns that details of the investigation would be leaked, but the school hired an outside firm to investigate leaks regarding Tracy.

"So when I complain, nothing happens; when she complains, MSU acts? This double standard reflects the bias against me throughout this process" he said.

Tucker also said the school sent him the notice to terminate "just days after??requesting a medical leave??for a serious health condition."

Again maintaining his innocence, Tucker said he could "only conclude that MSU does not care about my rights, the truth, or its future liability for policing its employees' private lives."

"MSU was supposedly going to let that flawed process play out before deciding what to do, but has now reneged on even that?? I look forward to one day obtaining discovery against MSU, including the Trustees and the Athletic Department, to see what they really knew and said about this matter, as well as their motives in handling the entire investigative process," he said. "MSU now claims that after having already terminated my employment, it is committed to completing the "formal grievance process" - a process that expressly calls for confidentiality (which MSU publicly acknowledged failing to provide) - to determine if I violated any school policy. The public can decide if any of this rings true or fair."

Tucker is owed $79 million on the 10-year contract he signed in 2021, so firing him for cause will save the school all of that money.

Michigan State Seeks to Fire Football Coach Amid Sexual Harassment Case

Michigan State University said it would fire its head football coach, Mel Tucker, amid an investigation into allegations that he sexually harassed a woman who visited the school to educate its football team about sexual misconduct. The school had already suspended him earlier this month.

In a letter sent to Mr. Tucker on Monday, the university described "a body of undisputed evidence" that showed the former coach had breached his employment agreement. The letter said his actions constituted "moral turpitude" warranting termination.

Mr. Tucker was given seven days to respond and explain why he should not be terminated, Alan Haller, vice president and director of intercollegiate athletics at Michigan State, said in a statement, noting that the process was required as part of Mr. Tucker's contract. The investigation remains ongoing, he said.

In an email, the woman's lawyer said her client was not commenting on Mr. Tucker's termination. The school did not name her in its letter to Mr. Tucker.

Mr. Tucker could not be immediately reached for comment on Monday evening. In a statement released last week, he described the allegations as "completely false," The Associated Press reported, noting that the former coach had criticized the woman for suggesting their relationship was not consensual.

According to the letter, the woman, an activist against sexual violence and herself a survivor of gang rape, visited the university in July 2021 to teach its football team how to prevent sexual misconduct. She came forward the next year with allegations that Mr. Tucker had made "unwelcome sexual advances" and "masturbated on a phone call with her without her consent."

The university said that it had opened an investigation in light of her complaints, and that Mr. Tucker had admitted to making comments to the woman "about her looks, body and body parts" as well as "making flirtatious comments" and "masturbating and making sexually explicit comments" about himself and the woman while on the phone with her. Mr. Tucker described these conversations as "phone sex" and "a late-night intimate conversation," the letter said.

Given Mr. Tucker's admitted actions, the university said it might terminate him on the grounds that he had brought "public disrespect, contempt or ridicule upon the university," according to the letter. If he does not bring forward "sufficient reasons" to dispute the grounds for termination, he will be terminated on Sep. 26, the letter said.

Monday's announcement evoked painful memories of the university's role in another sexual misconduct case. Michigan State was heavily criticized for its handling of sexual abuse reports regarding Lawrence G. Nassar, the former physician for the American gymnastics team, who was long employed by the university. Mr. Nassar received multiple sentences in 2017 and 2018 for sex crimes involving hundreds of victims. He is expected to spend the rest of his life in prison.

Mr. Tucker was appointed as head coach of Michigan State's football team, the Spartans, in 2020. He had previously served on several N.F.L. and college coaching staffs. The university signed a 10-year, $95 million contract extension with him in 2021, making him one of the highest paid coaches in college football.

A hearing on the investigation into Mr. Tucker's conduct is scheduled for early next month, the university said.

Mel Tucker made $6M amid sexual harassment investigation: report

While embattled Michigan State football coach Mel Tucker attempted to delay an investigation and subsequent hearing into sexual harassment allegations, he was reportedly still raking in millions from the university.

Tucker was suspended without pay on Sunday after details of a months-long sexual harassment investigation were published by USA Today.

Tucker was still making $750,000 a month before he was suspended without pay, according to a USA Today report on Wednesday.

That means that he made at least $6 million since the university launched its investigation.

An investigation done by an outside attorney hired by Michigan State, began after Brenda Tracy, a prominent sexual assault prevention advocate who works to educate athletes about sexual violence, made a formal complaint against the football coach in December 2022.

Tracy, who spoke to the football team on three occasions from 2021-2022, accused Tucker of making unwanted sexual comments and masturbating during a phone call with her in April 2022, which he later claimed was consensual phone sex.

Michigan State policy says that cases will typically be handled within 90 days of a formal complaint, but the investigation into Tucker took 216 days because he didn't sit down with investigators for three months, according to USA Today.

Then, further delays ensued to get a hearing on the books once the investigation had been completed on July 25.

A university hearing was set for Aug. 22 and 23, but Tucker's attorney, Jennifer Belveal, said the coach was unavailable on those dates.

It took further email exchanges to settle on the Oct. 5 and 6 dates that are now scheduled for the proceedings to take place.

On Monday, Tucker made his first statement denying the allegations publicly and calling the upcoming hearing a "sham."

"The proceedings initiated by Ms. Tracy are devoid of any semblance of fairness for any matter of this importance, and the University's hearing' scheduled for October 5-6 is so flawed that there is no other opportunity for the truth to come out," Tucker said.

We are excited to welcome @brendatracy24 back to campus as our honorary captain for Saturday's spring game! #SetTheExpectation @STEnonprofit

- Michigan State Football (@MSU_Football) April 13, 2022

"The investigation has not been fair or unbiased. I can only conclude that there is an ulterior motive designed to terminate my contract based on some other factor such as a desire to avoid any [Larry] Nasser taint, or my race or gender. The sham hearing' scheduled for October 5-6 is ridiculously flawed and not designed to arrive at the truth."

Tracy, who was made an honorary captain during the team's 2022 spring game, also responded in a statement of her own this week.

"Coach Tucker has been delaying and trying to stop the investigative process since the beginning," she said. "He can't afford to go to a hearing that determines credibility of the participating parties. I believe this statement is his way of getting out of participating in the hearing. October 5th and 6th I will be present for the hearing and make myself available for cross-examination by his attorney Jennifer Belveal. I invite him to do the same."

According to The Athletic, Tracy had no intentions of releasing her name to the public while the investigation was ongoing but did so once her name had been leaked by local media.

"After the investigation process was completed, we would have determined, what, if any further steps to take. Instead, [Tracy's] identity was disclosed without her knowledge or consent, warranting express actions to protect her," attorney Karen Truszkowski said in a statement to the outlet.

"Her choice to allow this process to proceed privately was taken away."


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