Mel Tucker – Other motivations play a role in Michigan State’s decision

Thamel HouseespnSeptember 19, 2023 at 11:07 AM ET4 minutes to read

Suspended Michigan State football coach Mel Tucker responded Tuesday to the school’s notice that it intended to fire him for cause, saying in a statement that “other motives are at play” and there was “bias” against him throughout the process.

After receiving notice of the school’s intent to expel him on Monday, Tucker was given seven days, according to his contract, to respond to the notice in the wake of a pending sexual misconduct case brought by sex education speaker Brenda Tracy.

In Tucker’s statement to ESPN on Tuesday morning, he claimed his firing was a “miscarriage of justice” and came about due to Ms. Tracy’s “inappropriate public disclosure of the entire 1,200-page investigative file regarding her baseless complaint against me.”

“…Let’s be clear. I do not believe MSU is planning to expel me because I admitted to having a private, fully consensual relationship with another adult who presented at MSU, at my request, more than two years ago.”

By firing him for cause, Michigan State aims to avoid paying more than $79 million remaining on Tucker’s contract. Tucker’s statement foreshadows a lawsuit seeking that money, as he says he looks forward to “one day obtaining discovery against MSU, including the trustees and the athletic department.”

In his statement, Tucker points out what he sees as multiple flaws in how MSU handled his case, including the recent decision to suspend him for cause after initially suspending him as a “temporary measure” last week.

One of Tucker’s biggest issues is the timeline in which MSU officials learned of the allegations. The complaint was filed in December 2022.

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“MSU has known the information it was supposedly relying on to terminate my contract since at least March 2023,” Tucker stated in the letter. “However, it was only after Ms. Tracy and others leaked the confidential investigation report to the press that MSU suddenly decided that this very information deserved termination.”

Tucker said he was not given a fair process, as he was scheduled to have a hearing in early October. In a previous statement, he described that session as “fake.” Instead, he received notice that he would be fired about a week after being suspended without pay.

“About a week later, with no new information, MSU moved to fire me — illogically claiming that this action had no impact on the ongoing investigation,” Tucker said in the statement. “The investigation was designed to determine whether I violated the policy. I did not. But regardless, basic fairness requires that this process be undertaken before any penalty(s) can be determined.”

Tucker said MSU ignored his request for medical leave, with notice of his dismissal shortly after that request.

“MSU sent notice of its intent to terminate a few days after sending Alan Haller an email requesting medical leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act due to a serious health condition,” Tucker said in the statement. “I can only conclude that MSU does not care about my rights, the truth, or its future responsibility to police the private lives of its employees.”

On Monday, Michigan State athletic director Alan Haller sent a five-page letter to Tucker and his agent declaring an “intent to terminate” his contract for cause, citing “an undisputed body of evidence of misconduct warranting termination.”

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Tracy’s sexual misconduct complaint from December of 2022 includes allegations of unwelcome advances from Tucker, including him masturbating without her consent during a phone call in April of 2022. Tucker admitted to masturbating, but claimed in a statement last week that he was part of Consensual agreement. Intimacy.

Tucker, who is married, added in the letter that he found “solace” in the investigator’s conclusion that they had a “personal relationship.”

“Tracy expressed his approval of every aspect of our relationship,” Tucker said in his statement Tuesday. “I look forward to one day getting discovery against MSU, including the trustees and athletic department, to find out what they really know and say about this matter, as well as their motives in handling the entire investigative process.”

In Michigan State’s letter to Tucker, they referred to Tracy as a saleswoman, who had been hired to speak to Michigan State’s team about sexual assault awareness.

“The unprofessional and unethical conduct is particularly egregious given that the university contracted with the vendor in question for the sole purpose of educating student-athletes about inappropriate sexual misconduct and preventing instances of inappropriate sexual misconduct,” Haller wrote in the letter to Tucker.

Tucker’s claim of double standards comes from how the school handled leaks in the case. He says that on August 25, well before the story was published, he “demanded an investigation into the leaks.”

Recently, after Tracy’s lawyer complained that her name had been leaked, the school hired an outside law firm to investigate and claimed confidentiality was “critical.”

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“So when I complain, nothing happens; when you complain, MSU acts?” Tucker said in his statement on Tuesday. “This double standard reflects the bias against me throughout this process.”

Tucker was replaced by staffer Harlon Barnett, who serves as interim coach. Former MSU coach Mark Dantonio also joined the staff in an advisory role and as a sounding board for Barnett.

ESPN’s Dan Murphy contributed to this report.

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