Michigan State says Mel Tucker violated school sexual misconduct policies

A Michigan State hearing officer ruled Wednesday that football coach Mel Tucker violated the university’s sexual harassment policies by engaging in behavior that led to a formal complaint from the activist and Rape survivor Brenda Tracy.

The decision follows a hearing earlier this month that Tucker did not attend due to what his lawyers described as a serious health condition. The 51-year-old, who was fired for cause late last month, has 10 days to appeal.

An attorney for Tracy confirmed reports earlier today of the ruling, with the representative noting that the hearing officer “determined by a preponderance of the evidence” that Tucker violated MSU’s policy on relationship violence and misconduct sexual “by sexually harassing and sexually exploiting” his client.

Tracy told USA Today she shed “tears of relief” in reaction to the decision.

His lawyer later told the Washington Post that he “would have no further comment at this time.” A school spokesperson also declined to comment, saying the possibility of an appeal meant school officials “do not yet consider the matter final.”

Tracy, who speaks with college football teams about creating and promoting a culture opposed to sexual violence, filed a complaint with Michigan State in December. The school assigned an independent investigator to the matter, a process that lasted about 10 months before the Oct. 5 hearing. By then, Tracy’s allegations had exploded into the public eye with a USA Today report in September that described her conduct as “disgusting.”

After establishing a personal connection when Tucker invited Tracy to speak to his team in August 2021, she alleged that he developed an unrequited romantic interest and made inappropriate comments. Tracy said Tucker masturbated while they were on a phone call last year, an episode she said left him traumatized from his past. Tucker later canceled a second visit she was scheduled to make with her team, a turnaround she suggested was linked to what she described as a rejection of his advances.

Tucker has repeatedly stated that their relationship was consensual and that it was a purely personal matter not within the jurisdiction of the State of Michigan. A lawyer for Tucker sent a letter to university officials at the time of the Oct. 5 hearing saying Tracy “allegedly suppressed key evidence and provided only self-serving excerpts (to the Office of Institutional Equity) school) to support an allegation of “harassment”. “that MSU should never have investigated in the first place.” The attorney also said in the letter that Tracy “used MSU’s investigative process because she was motivated by money.”

After the university informed Tucker of his dismissal, it said in a statement that his contract was terminated due to “his acknowledged and unquestioned behaviors that elicited disrespect, contempt and public ridicule at the with regard to the university; and constitute a material breach of his agreement and moral turpitude.

At the time of his firing, Tucker had approximately $80 million remaining on a 10-year, $95 million contract he signed in 2021. When he signed the contract, he was leading the Spartans to an 11-2 record in his second season with the program. Michigan State then went 5-7 in 2022 and was 2-0 this year when he was fired.

Tucker was replaced by interim coach Harlon Barnett, who has since overseen five losses in as many games, including a 49-0 rout Saturday against second-ranked Michigan.

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