Michigan State suspends football coach in sexual harassment investigation

Michigan State University suspended football coach Mel Tucker on Sunday, hours after a USA Today report revealed he is the subject of an ongoing sexual harassment investigation. 

At a press conference Sunday evening, the university’s interim president, Teresa Woodruff, announced Tucker would be suspended without pay, pending a resolution of the Title IX case. A formal hearing to determine whether Tucker violated school policy is set for Oct. 5 and 6.

“This step, suspending Mel Tucker without pay, is … necessary and appropriate for today’s circumstances,” Woodruff reportedly said at the press conference Sunday. “These actions are not taken lightly.”

The USA Today report revealed Brenda Tracy, a prominent advocate for victims of sexual violence and herself a rape survivor, filed a complaint in December 2022 with the school’s Title IX office. In the complaint, she reportedly detailed a phone call she had with Tucker, during which she recalled sitting frozen while he allegedly made sexual comments about her and masturbated, according to USA Today’s description of the complaint.

Tucker and Tracy had formed a working partnership to fight against the culture of sexual violence in sports, according to the USA Today report. They developed a professional relationship centered on the advocacy, over the course of eight months, and Tracy visited the campus three times, in a professional capacity.

Tracy reportedly said the incident reopened decades-old wounds from when she was raped by four men, two Oregon State football players, a junior college player and a recruit, according to USA Today. 

“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 said to USA Today, adding, “It’s like he sought me out just to betray me.”

Tucker reportedly said to the Title IX investigator that the interactions were “consensual” and accused Tracy of distorting their interactions.

“Ms. Tracy’s distortion of our mutually consensual and intimate relationship into allegations of sexual exploitation has really affected me,” Tucker reportedly told the investigator in March of this year, adding, “I am not proud of my judgment and I am having difficulty forgiving myself for getting into this situation, but I did not engage in misconduct by any definition.”

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