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Michigan State to Mel Tucker: We will fire you for ‘moral turpitude’

 Mel Tucker
Michigan State University football coach Mel Tucker will be fired over allegations of sexual misconduct, university officials announced Monday. (Photo courtesy MSU)
  • MSU sends Mel Tucker a notice of intent to terminate contract
  • Football coach is accused of masturbating without consent on phone call with sexual consent advocate
  • MSU claims Tucker’s admitted actions ‘materially breach’ the contract

LANSING — Michigan State University on Monday began the process of formally firing head football coach Mel Tucker amid an ongoing sexual harassment investigation.

Athletic Director Allan Haller informed Tucker of the decision in a written notice of intent to terminate the remainder of the 10-year, $95 million contract that was signed in late 2021. 

Haller cited a contract clause allowing for early termination if "the coach engages in any conduct which constitutes moral turpitude" or would "tend to bring public disrespect, contempt, or ridicule upon the university."

"Your admitted actions materially breach the agreement," Haller wrote.


Tucker is accused of masturbating on an April 2022 phone call with Brenda Tracy, a rape survivor and sexual consent advocate the team had previously paid $10,000 to host on campus to speak to players about appropriate behavior. 

Tucker has acknowledged having an intimate relationship with Tracy, but has described the incident as consensual phone sex. Tracy has said Tucker did not have consent.

The decision to fire Tucker comes eight days after MSU first suspended the coach, the same day USA Today published an article about the investigation and allegations. 

Tracy first reported the incident in December, and an independent investigator issued a report in late July.

While the probe by MSU's Office for Civil Rights and Title X Compliance is expected to continue with an October hearing, Haller told Tucker the university has "amassed a body of undisputed evidence of misconduct that warrants termination for cause."

During the course of the investigation, Tucker admitted that he commented on Tracy's looks, body and "ass," Haller said. 

The coach also admitted to making flirtatious comments to Tracy and engaging in phone sex, he said. 

In a separate statement released to the media, Haller said the notice of intent to terminate Tucker's contract was sent "with the support" of the MSU administration and the university's publicly elected Board of Trustees.

"The notice provides Tucker with seven calendar days to respond and present reasons to me and (MSU Interim President Teresa Woodruff) as to why he should not be terminated for cause," Haller said. 

“This action does not conclude the ongoing Office for Civil Rights case; that rigorous process will continue.”

MSU hired Tucker in 2020 and, after he led the team to a Peach Bowl win in 2021, awarded him with a lucrative contract extension that made him one of the highest paid coaches in college football history. 

In a lengthy statement last week, Tucker denied the sexual harassment allegations and blasted the university's ongoing probe process, calling the planned October hearing a "sham" that is "not designed to arrive at the truth." 

Tucker suggested MSU had an "ulterior motive" and may have been acting to avoid the "taint" of Larry Nassar, the former MSU doctor sentenced to prison after molesting numerous student athletes and minor girls. 

Tracy responded to Tucker's comments last week on social media, accusing the coach of victim blaming, lying and deflecting from his own actions," which I've been dealing with now for months.”

The situation has prompted numerous questions about MSU’s handling of sexual misconduct cases, as interim President Teresa Woodruff and board members have acknowledged they were unaware of details of Tracy’s complaint before USA Today published them.

Students and others objected that Tucker’s hearing was scheduled for an off week for the football team.

Last week, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said “we deserve to know when the university knew about these allegations and why they made the decisions they did. 

“We need to ensure that one of our state’s flagship universities, one that carries so much weight around the world, is learning from the past and not recreating it,” Whitmer said.

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