Michigan State moves to fire football coach Mel Tucker amid sexual harassment investigation

Michigan State University on Monday informed head football coach Mel Tucker of its intent to terminate his contract as the school weighs sexual harassment allegations against him.

Athletic Director Alan Haller wrote a letter to a sports management firm that represents Tucker detailing the intent. The letter states that Tucker admitted to behavior that violates terms of his contract.

Under a process outlined in Tucker’s employment contract, the coach has seven calendar days to respond with reasons why he should not be fired, according to a school statement Monday.

USA Today first reported the allegations of sexual harassment against Tucker by a woman who said he made unwelcome sexual advances and masturbated on a phone call with her without her consent. The accusations were referenced in the university’s letter to the coach this week. 

The 51-year-old Tucker, who said he is estranged from his wife and has two children, told USA Today that the allegations against him are “completely false.” Tucker insisted that an intimate phone call with his accuser was consensual and outside the scope of both Title IX and school policy.

The alleged behavior reportedly happened in 2022 with a woman under contract to provide a “sexual misconduct prevention educational program” to the Michigan State football team, according to the letter.

The vendor complained under federal civil rights law known as Title IX, and the university hired a third party to investigate the allegations. A separate investigation by the institution’s Office for Civil Rights was also launched.

In the intent letter, Haller wrote that Tucker admitted to behavior that violates the terms of his contract, including a clause on “moral turpitude” that essentially forbids behavior that would draw to the institution “public disrespect, contempt, or ridicule.”

The letter stated that Tucker admitted during the investigation to commenting on the vendor’s body, flirting with the claimant, and “masturbating and making sexually explicit comments.”

“The above-described undisputed facts provide multiple grounds for termination,” Haller wrote.

A hearing on the matter was scheduled for Oct. 5 and 6. However, in the absence of sufficient reasons not to move forward, termination will be effective Sept. 26, Haller said.

Tucker is in the third year of a $95 million, 10-year contract and if he is fired for cause, the school would not have to pay him what’s remaining on his deal.

“This action does not conclude the ongoing Office for Civil Rights case; that rigorous process will continue,” the university said in its statement on Monday.

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