Despite what The Detroit News called "a Hail Mary attempt to keep his job" earlier this week, Mel Tucker was officially terminated as Michigan State University's head football coach Wednesday.
The Lansing State Journal laid out the timeline of Tucker's termination: A USA Today investigation was first to reveal sexual harassment allegations against the coach by Brenda Tracy, a rape survivor and activist hired by Tucker to speak to his team about sexual violence and consent. That story was published on Sept. 10, and later that day MSU athletic director Alan Haller suspended Tucker without pay. Eight days later, Haller notified Tucker he intended to fire him for cause, saying the sexual conduct he has admitted to alone violates his contract. Tucker was given until Monday to respond, which he did shortly before 5 p.m., according to The Detroit News, claiming he was a victim in a 25-page letter submitted by his attorneys.
Less than two days later, Haller made Tucker's termination official. According to CNN, Michigan State said Tucker’s firing did not conclude the “ongoing MSU Office for Civil Rights case; that rigorous process will continue.”
Tracy reported her allegations regarding Tucker's conduct to the university’s Title IX office, and an investigation began in December 2022.
An attorney for Tracy, Karen Truszkowski, said no police report was filed. She issued a statement on behalf of her client earlier this month, as reported by CNN.
“Brenda Tracy had no intention of publicly disclosing her identity,” the statement read. “She was and continues to be committed to complying with and concluding the MSU internal investigative process. She respected the process and chose not to go to the media to preserve the integrity of the process.
“After the investigation process was completed, we would have determined, what, if any further steps to take. Instead, her identity was disclosed without her knowledge or consent, warranting express actions to protect her. Her choice to allow this process to proceed privately was taken away.”
Tucker became Michigan State’s head coach in 2020. After his second season ended with an 11-2 record, he signed a 10-year, $95 million contract that made him one of the highest paid coaches in college football, according to CNN. Last season, the team finished a disappointing 5-7, including blowout losses to rivals Michigan and Ohio State.
The Lansing State Journal published verbatim Haller's termination letter to Tucker, which was released shortly before noon Wednesday. It read:
September 27, 2023
C/O Neil M. Comrich
NC Sports, LLC
2000 Auburn Drive, Suite 315
Beachwood, OH 44122
Re: Termination of Employment Agreement
Dear Mr. Tucker,
I write on behalf of the University to terminate the Amended Employment Agreement, dated November 24, 2021 (the "Agreement"). Pursuant to Section III.B.1 of the Agreement (the "Early Termination Provision"), the University provided you with written notice of the University's intent to terminate the Agreement on September 18, 2023 (the "Notice"). After thoroughly reviewing your response dated September 25, 2023 (the "Response"), the University now terminates the Agreement for cause.
Simply put, the Response does not provide any information that refutes or undermines the multiple grounds for termination for cause set forth in the Notice. Instead, the 25-page Response, which includes a 12-page letter from your attorney and a 13-page "expert report," provides a litany of excuses for your inappropriate behavior while expressly admitting to the problematic conduct outlined in the Notice. For example, when speaking to the statements that you made during the investigation that were addressed in the Notice, you maintain that you "told the truth in that investigation without reservation." (Response at 1.) Later in your Response, you again admit to having multiple discussions with the Vendor on "the possibility of future programming," and to "conversations [you] had with [the Vendor] regarding her appearance, flirtation, and phone sex." (Id. at 4.) It is immaterial if, as you allege, these actions were purportedly consensual and somehow occurred outside of your workplace. As the University previously stated, "[i]t is decidedly unprofessional and unethical to flirt, make sexual comments, and masturbate while on the phone with a University vendor." (Notice at 2.) Your unconvincing rationalizations and misguided attempts to shift responsibility cannot and do not excuse your own behavior. Had you not engaged in this inappropriate and unprofessional conduct, the University would not be subject to public disrespect and ridicule regarding your actions.
No statement in your attorney's Response attempting to undermine the jurisdiction of the investigation, justify your actions, or call into question the University's rational and justified decision to terminate your contract for cause "present reasons to the Athletic Director and the University's President as to why [you] should not be terminated on the grounds stated" in the Notice. (Section III.B. l .) Per the terms of the Agreement, you have been given the opportunity to present your reasoning to me and the Interim President. The length and detail of your Response demonstrates that you have had sufficient time and ability to consult with your attorney and present your reasoning. Given that your Response did not demonstrate any reason not to terminate based upon the grounds stated in the Notice, the University terminates the Agreement for cause pursuant to the Early Termination Provision effective September 27, 2023.
Vice President and Director of Athletics Michigan State University
CC: Teresa Woodruff