The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Michigan State football head coach Mel Tucker fired amid sexual harassment allegations, leaving void in team leadership

Tucker faces allegations of sexual harassment from rape survivor and educational speaker Brenda Tracy.
Michigan State University head football coach Mel Tucker speaks at his first press conference as MSU’s head coach at the Breslin Student Events Center on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020. (Neil Blake/MLive)

In 2021, Michigan State football coach Mel Tucker became one of college football’s highest-paid coaches. Two years later, he lost his job amid sexual harassment allegations.

Tucker first signed on as the Spartans’ head coach in 2020, securing a 6-year, $33 million contract that came after just one year at the helm of the Colorado football program.

The deal with the Spartans made him the 12th-highest-paid coach in the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision despite the Buffaloes going 5-7 with him in charge. 

In the COVID-19-shortened season in 2020, Tucker led the Spartans to a 2-5 record. 

But after leading the Spartans to an 11-2 record and ranking as high as No. 5 in the AP Poll, Michigan State scrapped his initial contract and signed him to a 10-year, $95 million extension — the third-largest contract a public university has ever given a college football coach.

Tucker also kickstarted an initiative within the Michigan State football program to fight sexual violence in sports, and he invited educational speaker and rape survivor Brenda Tracy to visit campus and educate his athletes.

A September 2022  investigation by USA Today found Tucker and Tracy developed a professional relationship around her work. Tucker twice invited Tracy to East Lansing to speak to his players as well as a third time to be the team’s honorary captain at its 2022 spring practice game.

The USA Today investigation found — according to a complaint Tracy filed with the Michigan State Office for Civil Rights and Title IX Education and Compliance — Tucker allegedly made sexual comments about Tracy and masturbated without her consent while on a phone call with her on April 28, 2022, just days after she served as captain of the practice.

The USA Today investigation found that, in Tucker’s statements to a Title IX investigator, he recognized masturbating on the call but called it consensual “phone sex.”

Michigan State hired an external Title IX attorney to investigate the incident, and the investigation concluded in July. 

The university suspended Tucker without pay after the USA Today investigation was published on Sept. 10, and a formal hearing is set for the week of Oct. 5 to decide if Tucker violated school policy. A ruling can take up to 60 days. 

But on Sept. 18, Michigan State informed Tucker that he would be fired on Sept. 26 without compensation for the remaining years of his contract if he did not “present sufficient reason to dispute” any violations of his contract he may have committed. 

On Sept. 27 Tucker was fired by Michigan State for cause. He would lose about $80 million dollars he was owed through Jan. 15, 2032. 

In a statement, Tucker pointed out numerous allegations of Michigan State mishandling the issue and called Tracy’s complaint “baseless.” He said he was “not surprised” with the university’s plans to terminate his contract and claimed “other motives are at play.”

“I can only conclude that MSU does not care about my rights, the truth, or its future liability for policing its employees’ private lives,” Tucker wrote in the statement.

Michigan State football secondary coach Harlon Bennett has been appointed acting interim head coach since Tucker’s suspension with longtime former Spartan head coach Mark Dantonio returning as associate head coach.

In Bennett’s first game at the helm of the program on Sept. 16, the then No. 8 Washington Huskies trampled the Spartans, 41-7. And on Sept. 23, the Spartans fell to the Maryland Terrapins, losing 31-9.

Now 2-2, the Spartans will enter Kinnick Stadium on Saturday to take on Kirk Ferentz and the now-unranked Iowa Hawkeyes with a new focus on changing course in Tucker’s absence.

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About the Contributor
Colin Votzmeyer
Colin Votzmeyer, Assistant Sports Editor
Colin Votzmeyer is a junior at the University of Iowa studying journalism and mass communication with minors in history and criminology, law, and justice. Prior to his role as assistant sports editor, he previously served as digital producer, news reporter covering crime, cops, and courts, and sports reporter covering track and field and women's basketball. He plans on attending law school after his graduation with hopes of pursuing a career as a criminal defense attorney.