Michigan State University’s head football coach Mel Tucker was suspended without pay on Sunday after USA Today reported on harassment allegations against him. If he gets fired, Tucker stands to lose the remaining $80 million left on his $95 million, 10-year contract.
“It could be a monumental fall for somebody who had reached the upper echelon of college sports coaches,” said Kenny Jacoby, an investigative reporter for USA Today who broke the news of the allegations.
USA Today says it was contacted by Brenda Tracy, a prominent rape survivor and sexual awareness expert hired by Tucker to speak with the team. She filed a complaint in December 2022 alleging that during a phone call in April that year, Tucker made sexual comments to her and masturbated without her consent, Jacoby said.
“The idea that someone could know me and say they understand my trauma but then re-inflict that trauma on me is so disgusting to me, it’s hard for me to even wrap my mind around it,” Tracy told USA Today. “It’s like he sought me out just to betray me.”
According to documents obtained by the publication, Tucker did not deny his behavior to investigators, but said it was consensual.
“Ms. Tracy’s distortion of our mutually consensual and intimate relationship into allegations of sexual exploitation has really affected me,” Tucker wrote in a letter to a Title IX investigator, according to USA Today. “I am not proud of my judgment and I am having difficulty forgiving myself for getting into this situation, but I did not engage in misconduct by any definition.”
MSU defended its decision not to suspend Tucker months ago after it completed its own investigation in late July.
A hearing on whether Tucker violated school policy is scheduled for next month.
“There’s still an ongoing process that needs to play out,” athletic director Alan Haller said at a news conference.
The development marks another sexual misconduct case facing MSU. After years of complaints, former MSU and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar was convicted in 2018 of sexually abusing gymnasts. The university says that since then it’s been working to regain the community’s trust.