Michigan State football's acting head coach Harlon Barnett leaves the podium after his first press conference since taking over for suspended coach Mel Tucker on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2023, at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing.

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Michigan State fires football coach Mel Tucker

Michigan State fired football coach Mel Tucker on Wednesday, sending him a letter that stated his actions with a female contractor left the university “subject to public disrespect and ridicule.”

The school gave Tucker written notice last week that it planned to terminate his contract for cause.

Tucker was suspended without pay on Sept. 10 following a months-long investigation into sexual harassment allegations.

Tucker, whose attorneys have called the university’s findings “flimsy,” was hired in February 2020.

Michigan State’s investigation alleged that Tucker, 51, sexually harassed Brenda Tracy, a sexual assault survivor and awareness speaker, during what she has characterized as unwanted phone sex in April 2022.

While Field Level Media’s policy is not to name alleged victims of sexual harassment or assault, Tracy agreed to be identified in a USA Today interview and provided hundreds of pages of documentation.

According to Tucker’s attorneys, Tucker and Tracy had “an entirely mutual, private event between two adults living at opposite ends of the country” and Tucker has said the investigation contained “an ulterior motive designed to terminate my contract.”

The termination letter, signed by athletic director Alan Haller, said Tucker’s 25-page response to the allegations did “not provide any information that refutes or undermines the multiple grounds for termination for cause set forth” in the notice to terminate. Instead, Haller said the response “provides a litany of excuses for your inappropriate behavior while expressly admitting to the problematic conduct outlined” in the notice.

Tucker, the 2021 Big Ten Coach of the Year, guided the Spartans to a 20-14 record, including a 2-0 start this season.

Tucker was one of the highest-paid coaches in college football, signing a 10-year, $95 million contract before the 2022 season. The contract would have been fully guaranteed had the school fired Tucker for performance.

However, it contains a clause that allows Michigan State to fire him, without payment, if he engages in “conduct which, in the University’s reasonable judgment, would tend to bring public disrespect, contempt or ridicule on the University,” according to USA Today.

The Spartans (2-2, 0-1 Big Ten) have lost both games since defensive backs coach Harlon Barnett took over as their interim head coach. They play at Iowa on Saturday.

–Field Level Media

Field Level Media
Sport Writer & Editor
FLM has a North American focus while tying into regional and hyper-local resources – providing the ability to distribute compelling content through the writing of professional journalists. As the U.S. sports content provider to dozens of digital and print media publishers through strategic partnerships with the likes of Reuters and Nielsen Sports, FLM covers the nuts and bolts with a breaking news desk and game event coverage.

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