MSU informs Mel Tucker it plans to fire him for cause amid sexual harassment investigation

Michigan State football coach Mel Tucker
Photo credit Nic Antaya/Getty Images

(WWJ) – Michigan State University has notified suspended football coach Mel Tucker he is being fired.

In a statement released Monday, MSU Athletic Director Alan Haller said he and administrators have “provided Mel Tucker with written notice of intent to terminate his contract for cause.”

“This notification process is required as part of his existing contract. The notice provides Tucker with seven calendar days to respond and present reasons to me and the interim president as to why he should not be terminated for cause,” the statement said.

Haller says the firing does not conclude the ongoing Office for Civil Rights case.

The school initially suspended Tucker, 51, without pay earlier this month, pending the results of a Title IX investigation spurred by allegations Tucker sexually harassed Brenda Tracy, a sexual assault prevention advocate and rape survivor who had been working to educate the program on sexual violence.

The report alleges Tucker had non-consensual phone sex with her during a call.

While Tucker has admitted to masturbating during the call, he says the two had a consensual, intimate relationship, Tracy says it was not consensual.

"The University has become aware of various facts that have led to the unfortunate decision to terminate your employment for cause. At this point, the University has amassed a body of undisputed evidence of misconduct that warrants termination for cause," Haller said in his notification letter to Tucker, which the AD shared with the media.

The letter cited the Early Termination Provision in Tucker's 10-year, $95 million contract. The Early Termination Provision says Tucker can be fired for cause if he "engages in any conduct with constitutes moral turpitude or which, in the University’s reasonable judgement, would tend to bring public disrespect, contempt or ridicule upon the University."

As the university investigates the allegations, which were brought forth last fall, the letter says Tucker admitted to making comments to Tracy -- a "vendor" of the school for having brought her Set the Expectation foundation to speak with the team -- about "her looks, body and body parts, specifically her 'ass.'"

He also admitted to making flirtatious comments in conversations that "happened often," as well as "masturbating and making sexually explicit comments about yourself and the Vendor while on the phone with the vendor, which you describe as 'phone sex' and 'a late-night intimate conversation.'"

Those admissions, which the university call "undisputed facts" in the letter, provide "multiple grounds for termination under the Agreement's Early Termination Provision" and constitutes moral turpitude.

"Unless you can present sufficient reasons to dispute the above-identified grounds for termination for cause, the university will terminate your employment for cause, effective September 26, 2023," the letter concludes.

Tucker or his attorneys have not yet responded publicly to the school's decision.

Meanwhile, the university has also hired a law firm to investigate the source of alleged breaches of confidentiality, in connection with the investigation of Tucker. MSU hired Jones Day of Cleveland, Ohio, a firm the university has previously hired.

The investigation will look to see if Tracy's identity was ever improperly shared by anyone employed, or affiliated with the university. Tracy has said she revealed her identity to USA Today because she learned her name had been leaked to local media.

Her attorney said Tracy's identity was "disclosed without her knowledge or consent, warranting express actions to protect her" and that her "choice to allow this process to proceed privately was taken away."

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Nic Antaya/Getty Images