Suspended Michigan State football coach Mel Tucker responded Tuesday to the school’s notice that it intends to fire him for cause, saying in a statement that “other motives are at play” and there’s been a “bias” against him throughout the process.
After getting notified Monday of the school’s intention to fire him, Tucker was given seven days, per his contract, to respond to the notification in the wake of a pending sexual misconduct case brought by Brenda Tracy, a sexual awareness speaker.
In Tucker’s statement to ESPN on Tuesday morning, he claimed his firing is a “miscarriage of justice” and came because of “Ms. Tracy’s improper public disclosure of the entire 1,200-page investigation file regarding her baseless complaint against me.
“Let’s be clear. I don’t believe MSU plans to fire me because I admitted to an entirely consensual, private relationship with another adult who gave one presentation at MSU, at my behest, over two years ago.”
By firing him for cause, Michigan State is aiming to avoid paying Tucker the more than $79 million remaining on his contract. The statement by Tucker portends litigation to claim that money, as it says he looks forward to “one day obtaining discovery against MSU, including the Trustees and the Athletic Department.”
In his statement, Tucker points out what he perceives as multiple flaws in how MSU handled his case, including the recent decision to fire him for cause after initially suspending him as an “interim measure” last week.
One of Tucker’s biggest issues is the timeline of when MSU officials knew about the allegations. The complaint was filed in December 2022.
“MSU knew about the information on which it supposedly relies to end my contract since at least March 2023,” Tucker stated in the letter. “Yet only after Ms. Tracy and potentially others leaked the confidential investigation report to the press, did MSU suddenly decide this same information warrants termination.”
Tucker said that he wasn’t given fair process, as he was scheduled to have a hearing in early October. In an earlier statement, he referred to that hearing as “a sham.” Instead, he got the notice that he was to be fired nearly one week after being suspended without pay.
“About one week later, with no new information, MSU moved to terminate me — sanctimoniously and illogically claiming this action has no impact on the ongoing investigation,” Tucker said in the statement. “The investigation is designed to determine if I violated policy. I did not. But regardless, basic fairness requires that process play out before any sanction(s) are determined.”
Tucker said MSU ignored his request for a medical leave, with the notification of his firing coming soon after that request.
“MSU sent its notice of intent to terminate just days after I emailed [Michigan State athletic director] Alan Haller requesting a medical leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act for a serious health condition,” Tucker said in the statement. “I can only conclude that MSU does not care about my rights, the truth, or its future liability for policing its employees’ private lives.”
On Monday, Haller sent a five-page letter to Tucker and his agent declaring the “intent to terminate” his contract for cause, citing “a body of undisputed evidence of misconduct that warrants termination.”
Tracy’s sexual misconduct complaint in December 2022 includes claims of unwelcome advances from Tucker, including him masturbating without her consent during a phone call in April 2022. Tucker admitted to masturbating, but claimed in a statement last week that it was part of a consensual intimate relationship.
Tucker, who is married, added in the letter that he finds “solace” in the investigator concluding they had a “personal relationship.”
“Tracy expressed consent to every facet of our relationship,” Tucker said in his statement Tuesday. “I look forward to one day obtaining discovery against MSU, including the Trustees and the Athletic Department, to see what they really knew and said about this matter, as well as their motives in handling the entire investigative process.”
In Michigan State’s letter to Tucker, they refer to Tracy as a vendor, as she was hired to come speak to the Michigan State team about sexual assault awareness.
“The unprofessional and unethical behavior is particularly egregious given that the Vendor at issue was contracted by the University for the sole purpose of educating student-athletes on, and preventing instances of, inappropriate sexual misconduct,” Haller wrote in the letter to Tucker.
Tucker’s claim of a double standard comes from how the school handled leaks in the case. He says that on Aug. 25, well before the story went public, he “demanded an investigation into leaks.”
Recently, after Tracy’s attorney complained of a leak of her name, the school hired an outside law firm to investigate and claimed confidentiality “is paramount.”
“So when I complain, nothing happens; when she complains, MSU acts?” Tucker said in his statement Tuesday. “This double standard reflects the bias against me throughout this process.”
Tucker has been replaced by staff member Harlon Barnett, who is serving as the interim coach. Former MSU coach Mark Dantonio has also joined the staff in a consultant role and as a sounding board for Barnett.
ESPN’s Dan Murphy contributed to this report.