Michigan State fires Mel Tucker as head football coach

Mel Tucker has issued a statement after the Michigan State vice president and director of intercollegiate athletics announced Tucker has been given a notice of intent for termination.
Published: Sep. 27, 2023 at 12:43 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 27, 2023 at 12:57 PM EDT
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EAST LANSING, Mich. (WNEM/Gray News) - Michigan State University has officially fired Mel Tucker as head football coach after allegations of sexual harassment surfaced.

On Wednesday, Mel Tucker was officially terminated by Michigan State Vice President and Director of Intercollegiate Athletic Alan Haller, with the support of the interim president and board of trustees.

Tucker was previously suspended from his position as Michigan State’s head football coach after allegations surfaced that during a phone call, he sexually harassed rape survivor and activist Brenda Tracy.

He was given a notice of termination by the university on Sept. 18. He responded to the notice on Sept. 19.

According to the university, Tucker failed to present adequate reasons to Haller and interim president as to why he shouldn’t be terminated for the cause.

The university said it specifically terminated Tucker’s contract for his “admitted and undisputed behaviors which have brought public disrespect, contempt and ridicule upon the university; and constitute a material breach of his agreement, and moral turpitude.”

“Simply put, Mr. Tucker’s response does not provide any information that refutes or undermines the multiple grounds for termination for cause set forth in the notice,” Haller said. “Instead, his 25-page response, which includes a 12-page letter from his attorney and a 13-page ‘expert report,’ provides a litany of excuses for his inappropriate behavior while expressly admitting to the problematic conduct outlined in the notice.”

This action does not conclude the ongoing Office for Civil Rights case; that rigorous process will continue, Haller said.

An investigation into Tracy’s complaint is ongoing, and a step-by-step chart can be found on Michigan State’s website, which provides a timeline of the case, from report to resolution.

Acting head football coach Harlon Barnett is being named interim head coach, subject to board approval during its October meeting, Haller said.

Tucker, who said he has been estranged from his wife for years and has two children, said the allegations against him are “completely false.”

He has acknowledged having phone sex with Tracy but said it was consensual.

“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 (Nassar) taint, or my race or gender,” Tucker, who is Black, said in a response his attorney shared earlier this month.

Tracy is known for her work with college teams educating athletes about sexual violence. Michigan State paid her $10,000 to share her story with the football team.

Tucker began his coaching career with Nick Saban as a graduate assistant for the Spartans in 1997. He returned to the school with one of the biggest contracts in college sports after leading Colorado for one season and serving as an assistant coach at Georgia, Alabama and Ohio State.

Tucker also worked in the NFL, leading the Jacksonville Jaguars as interim coach during the 2011 season.