Exposed Michigan State football coach Mel Tucker said Monday that the sexual harassment allegations made against him were “completely false,” as was the intimate phone call he had Activist and rape survivor Brenda Tracy is outside the scope of Title IX and school policy.
In a two-page statement released by a Detroit law firm, Tucker sharply criticized Tracy for saying their relationship was anything but consensual and called the months-long investigation into his behavior deeply flawed.
“I can only conclude that there is an ulterior motive for terminating my contract based on some other factor, such as a desire to avoid any Nasser factor, or my race or gender,” said Tucker, who is black.
The university was fined $4.5 million by the Department of Education four years ago for failing to adequately respond to sexual assault complaints against Larry Nassar Campus sports doctor who harassed top gymnasts and other female athletes. The school has also settled lawsuits filed by Nassar victims for $500 million.
Michigan State athletic director Alan Haller suspended Tucker without pay on Sunday, less than 24 hours after Tracy’s allegations became public a report from USA Today.
The university hired a Title IX attorney to investigate Tracy’s complaint and the investigation was completed on July 25. A hearing is scheduled for the week of Oct. 5 to determine whether Tucker violated the school’s sexual harassment and exploitation policies.
Tucker is in his third year on a 10-year, $95 million contract and if he were released for cause, the school would not have to pay him the balance of his contract.
The school can fire Tucker for cause if he “engages in conduct that constitutes moral turpitude or would, in the sole discretion of the university, bring public contempt, contempt or ridicule upon the university,” his statement said Contract. The school could also suspend Tucker without pay if he “materially violates his contract.”
Tracy became friends with Tucker about her advocacy, but that relationship took a turn in April 2022 when Tucker masturbated during a phone conversation with her, according to USA Today.
Tucker admitted to investigators last spring that he had masturbated during the phone conversation with Tracy, but said they had consensual “phone sex.”
“We developed a mutual friendship that grew into an intimate, adult relationship,” said Tucker, 51, who is married with two children. “By this point, my wife and I had long been estranged.”
Tracy is known for her work with college teams to educate athletes about sexual violence. She has spoken to the Michigan State football team several times. She did not return multiple messages seeking further comment.
“While I am saddened that Ms. Tracy revealed the sensitivity of this call, I want to be clear: This was a completely shared, private event between two adults who lived on the other side of the country,” Tucker said. “She initiated the discussion that evening, sent me a provocative picture of the two of us together, suggested what she might look like without clothes, and during the 36 minutes she never once objected, let alone hung up the phone. ”