Michigan State football coach Mel Tucker suspended without pay amid sexual misconduct investigation
Michigan State University head football coach Mel Tucker has been suspended without pay amid his fourth season with the program after sexual misconduct allegations levied against him came to light, the university announced on Sunday.
"I have suspended Mel Tucker without pay as an additional interim measure while the investigation continues," MSU Vice President and Athletic Director Alan Haller said in an impromptu news conference Sunday afternoon. "I made this decision with the support of university leadership."
Brenda Tracy, a rape survivor and prominent activist, accused Tucker of making sexual comments toward her and masturbating without her consent during a phone call in April 2022 while she was doing advocacy work with the Spartans, a USA TODAY investigation revealed Sunday. Tucker acknowledged masturbating on a call with Tracy, but claimed it was consensual "phone sex."
Tracy filed a complaint with the university’s Title IX office in December, which Haller said he was aware of. Michigan State hired an outside Title IX attorney for the investigation, which was completed in July, and a formal hearing to determine if Tucker violated school policy is scheduled during the Spartans' bye week in early October.
Haller said the university decided to suspended Tucker "in the best interest of everyone, including students athletes and the university community" as new developments in the case came out ahead of the hearing. Haller said he couldn't disclose more information because the investigation is ongoing.
"The university's formal conclusion of the investigation will occur once a hearing and final decision processes are complete," Haller said, adding that the university's main goal is "remains focused on conducting a fair, thorough and unbiased investigation."
The Spartans opened the 2023-24 college football season 2-0, following a dominant 45-14 win over Richmond on Saturday. Michigan State faces Washington next week, but Tucker won't be on the sidelines. Instead, Michigan State defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett will serve as the interim head coach, Haller said. Mark Dantonio, who served as the head coach of MSU from 2007–2019, will return to the program as an associate head coach.
Tucker was hired by Michigan State in 2020 and agreed to a whopping 10-year, $95 million salary contract extension a year later. He's 20-14 as the head coach of the Spartans.
Michigan State is perhaps best known for missing repeated opportunities to stop one of the most prolific sexual abusers in American history. For nearly two decades, Michigan State leaders failed to act on complaints against Larry Nassar, the disgraced former U.S.A. Gymnastics and campus physician accused of sexually assaulting more than 300 female athletes under the guise of medical treatments. He has been sentenced to a minimum of 100 years in prison.
"This morning's news might sound like the MSU of old; it was not," Michigan State President Teresa K. Woodruff. "It is not because an independent unbiased investigation is & continues to be conducted."