Erin WalshSeptember 10, 2023
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Michigan State football coach Mel Tucker is under university investigation for alleged sexual harassment, according to ESPN’s Dan Murphy.
Brenda Tracy, a rape survivor who does advocacy work to educate athletes about sexual violence, said in a complaint to the school’s Title IX office that Tucker sexually harassed her, according to USA Today’s Kenny Jacoby.
Tucker and Tracy developed a relationship centered on her advocacy work over an eight-month period, and the alleged harassment occurred during an April 2022 phone call in which the Spartans head coach allegedly made sexual comments about Tracy and masturbated, according to Jacoby.
Tucker admitted to masturbating on the phone call while speaking with a Title IX investigator, per Jacoby. However, he said that he and Tracy had consensual “phone sex.”
“The idea that someone could know me and say they understand my trauma but then re-inflict that trauma on me is so disgusting to me, it’s hard for me to even wrap my mind around it,” she told USA Today. “It’s like he sought me out just to betray me.”
Tracy filed a complaint with Michigan State’s Title IX office in December that remains under investigation. The university also hired an outside Title IX investigator who finished an investigation in July.
A hearing to determine whether Tucker violated Michigan State’s policy on sexual harassment and exploitation is set for the team’s bye week on Oct. 5 and 6.
ESPN submitted a public records request to Michigan State on July 30 “seeking documents related to any complaints alleging that Tucker violated the university’s relationship violence and sexual misconduct policy,” but the request was denied, per Murphy.
“Under FOIA’s privacy exemption, information is exempt if (1) it is personal in nature, and (2) disclosure would reveal little to nothing about the inner workings of the government. Information is personal in nature when it is intimate, embarrassing, private, or confidential,” Michigan State wrote in its denial.
ESPN is exploring potential litigation against the university as it believes the denial is a violation of Michigan’s open records law, according to Murphy.
Tucker was hired as head coach of the Spartans football program ahead of the 2020 season. He agreed to a 10-year, $95 million contract extension with the school in November 2021.
Michigan State can fire Tucker with cause “if the coach engaged in any conduct which constitutes moral turpitude or, which in the university’s reasonable judgment, would tend to bring public disrespect, contempt or ridicule,” his contract states, per Murphy.