Michigan State has initiated the process to fire suspended football coach Mel Tucker with cause, the school announced Monday. Tucker was placed on administrative leave without pay earlier this month after it was revealed he was the focal point of a university investigation into allegations of sexual harassment against rape survivor and activist Brenda Tracy. A formal hearing will begin Oct. 5 regardless of Tucker’s status as Michigan State’s coach.
“I, with the support of administration and board, have provided Mel Tucker with written notice of intent to terminate his contract for cause,” Michigan State athletic director Alan Haller said in a statement. “This notification process is required as part of his existing contract. The notice provides Tucker with seven calendar days to respond and present reasons to me and the interim president as to why he should not be terminated for cause.
“This action does not conclude the ongoing Office for Civil Rights case; that rigorous process will continue.”
Tucker, who is in his fourth season in East Lansing, was put on leave without pay on Sept. 10, one day after the allegations came to light. The investigation into Tucker’s alleged behavior stemmed from a complaint filed in December 2022 by Tracy, in which Tucker is accused of making sexually suggestive comments and masturbating while Tracy “sat frozen for several minutes” during a phone call in April 2022. Tucker has called the harassment allegations “completely false,” contending that actions involving himself and Tracy were consensual.
An external investigation concluded in late July, according to Haller, but that offered little explanation as to why Tucker was not previously put on leave given the details the school had at that time. In a letter issued to Tucker and his agent Monday, Haller wrote that Tucker’s “unprofessional and unethical behavior” violated the “moral turpitude” clause of his contract, and that his admission of certain actions involving Tracy brought “public disrespect, contempt and ridicule upon the university.”
By firing Tucker for cause, Michigan State would be off the hook for a buyout exceeding $70 million. Tucker, in late 2021, was awarded a 10-year, $95 million contract extension. He arrived at Michigan State in 2020 after spending one year at Colorado. Momentum for Tucker took off in 2021 after he guided the Spartans to 11 wins, including a Peach Bowl victory against Pitt. Michigan State, however, regressed to a 5-7 finish in 2022. The Spartans began the 2023 season 2-0 before the allegations against Tucker surfaced but fell to Washington in Week 3.
Secondary coach Harlon Barnett has been named acting coach with Mark Dantonio, Tucker’s predecessor, returning to the Spartans as an associate coach.