Why did Michigan State University fire head football coach Mel Tucker?
Michigan State terminated Mel Tucker, citing his failure to provide sufficient reasons to avoid being fired for cause following his admission to consensual phone sex with an activist
Michigan State University has fired football coach Mel Tucker for cause, completing a process that began last week.
Tucker was under investigation by the university due to a sexual misconduct complaint made by Brenda Tracy, a speaker on sexual assault awareness.
Tracy’s complaint contains accusations of unwelcome advances by Tucker, including engaging in intimate activities during an April 2022 phone call without her consent. Tucker has acknowledged the occurrence but asserted it was within the boundaries of a consensual, personal relationship.
In a statement, the university stated that Tucker’s contract was terminated “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.”
Michigan State suspended Tucker without pay on September 10, and on September 18, Athletic Director Alan Haller informed Tucker in a letter of the university’s intention to terminate his contract for cause. The university initiated an investigation into Tracy’s complaint in December 2022, and there is an upcoming university hearing on the matter.
The formal firing was the last step in the university’s separation from Tucker, who still had nearly $79 million remaining on his contract. By terminating him for cause, Michigan State aims to avoid paying Tucker any of the remaining money.
In his letter, Haller claimed that the school had “gathered a substantial body of uncontested evidence of misconduct that justifies termination for cause.”
Tucket objects to termination
Tucker and his legal team strongly objected to the firing for cause in a statement last week and in a letter from his attorneys on Monday, characterizing the proposed termination as “unjustified for several reasons.”
In a statement on September 19, Tucker asserted that MSU “does not care about my rights, the truth, or its future liability for policing its employees’ private lives.”
Haller noted in Wednesday’s termination notice that Tucker’s responses consisted of “a series of excuses.”
“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 in a statement Wednesday. “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.”
Tucker’s attorneys responded within the seven-day timeframe specified in MSU’s September 18 letter, presenting a comprehensive 25-page rebuttal that challenged MSU’s claims.
What happens with the money on Tucker’s contract?
These responses could lead to a potential legal battle over the $79 million remaining on his contract. Tucker expressed his anticipation of gaining access to discovery against MSU, including the Trustees and the Athletic Department, to uncover their knowledge, statements, and motives in handling the investigation.
Tracy’s complaint alleges non-consensual behavior by Tucker during a phone call in April 2022, which Tucker denies, emphasizing the investigator’s recognition of a “personal relationship” between them. Tucker’s lawyers contended that their private conversations were consensual and unrelated to their work.
Despite the termination, a hearing to determine whether Tucker violated university policy is scheduled for early October. Tucker’s legal team criticized the university’s investigation as “terribly flawed, unfair, biased, and devoid of due process.”
They also raised concerns about the school’s ability to maintain confidentiality, citing a USA Today story in early September that disclosed the allegations against Tucker. Tracy and her attorney revealed the information after learning that her name had been leaked. The school has hired the law firm Jones Day to investigate the alleged leak.