A bombshell hit the college football world late Saturday night with news of ongoing sexual harassment investigation into Michigan State coach Mel Tucker.
Tucker, 51, in his fourth season with the Spartans and the second year of a massive 10-year, $95 million contract.
Now ESPN’s Dan Murphy reports that the university is in the midst of a months-long investigation into claims of sexual harassment by the Spartans head coach.
Michigan State football coach Mel Tucker is the subject of an ongoing university sexual harassment investigation, multiple sources with knowledge of the pending case confirmed to ESPN,” Murphy wrote.
ESPN filed a FOIA request with the university in July seeking documents regarding the investigation. But the university denied the request, “citing a passage in state law that exempts information that ‘would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of an individual’s privacy.'”
However, Murphy and ESPN did not back down.
“ESPN believes the denial is a violation of state open records law and has engaged a Michigan-based law firm to pursue potential litigation,” he writes.
Michigan State hired Tucker in 2020 to replace the retiring Mark Dantonio. He struggled to a 2-5 record in a COVID-stricken 2020 season.
But major transfer portal acquisitions led to a massive turnaround in 2021. The Spartans went 11-2 in Tucker’s second year and won the Peach Bowl, finishing in the top 10 in both the AP and Coaches Polls.
That led to the mega-extension, which aged poorly even before the harassment allegations.
Michigan State went just 5-7 a year ago and has struggled early in 2023, despite a 2-0 start to the season.
Tucker’s contract does include an out, however, if he’s found guilty of the harassment claims.
ESPN reports the school can fire him with cause “if the coach engaged in any conduct which constitutes moral turpitude or, which in the university’s reasonable judgment, would tend to bring public disrespect, contempt or ridicule.”
UPDATE (Sept. 10, 1:15 a.m. ET): USA Today’s Kenny Jacoby reports that Tucker’s accuser is rape survivor and activist Brenda Tracy.
Tracy is renowned for the work she does with college athletes educating about and advocating against sexual violence.
She says that Tucker made sexual comments and masturbated without consent during a phone call. Her complaint led to an ongoing Title IX investigation.
The pair worked together over eight months and Tucker invited her to campus three times. She twice spoke to the Spartans team and acted as an honorary captain for their spring game.
Tracy claims that she “sat frozen for several minutes while Tucker made sexual comments about her and masturbated” during a phone call on April 28, 2022.
“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,” she told USA TODAY. “It’s like he sought me out just to betray me.”
Tucker reportedly acknowledged masturbating on the call as part of the Title IX investigation. But USA Today reports that he told investigators that Tracy grossly mischaracterized the incident and that the pair had consensual “phone sex.”
“Ms. Tracy’s distortion of our mutually consensual and intimate relationship into allegations of sexual exploitation has really affected me,” Tucker wrote in a March 22 letter to the investigator. “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.”
An outside attorney completed her investigation in July.
A formal hearing is scheduled for Oct. 5 and 6 to determine the outcome.