Mel Tucker. Photo courtesy Michigan State University athletics.Mel Tucker. Photo courtesy Michigan State University athletics.

Michigan State begins process of firing football coach

Michigan State University has confirmed it will start the process of firing its head football coach for cause in the wake of a sexual harassment investigation.

The Detroit Free Press reported Monday afternoon that athletic director Alan Haller informed Mel Tucker in writing of its intention to terminate Tucker's contract.

"The University has become aware of various facts that have led to the unfortunate decision to terminate your employment for cause," the letter read. "At this point, the University has amassed a body of undisputed evidence of misconduct that warrants termination for cause."

The notice is given to allow Tucker an opportunity to contest it.

The move came days after the university suspended the coach pending an investigation of sexual harassment charges against him.

The 51-year-old coach is accused of inappropriate conduct while on a phone call with Brenda Tracy, a sexual assault survivor who had been hired by the university to speak to student-athletes about her experiences. Tucker, who is estranged from his wife, admitted the actions but insisted they were consensual.

"It is decidedly unprofessional and unethical to flirt, make sexual comments, and masturbate while on the phone with a University vendor," read the letter by Haller to Tucker. "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." It also pointed to Tucker's actions having "brought public disrespect, contempt, and ridicule upon the University."

Michigan State granted Tucker a ten-year, $95-million contract extension in November 2021, after leading the Spartans to an 11-2 record, including a win over cross-state rival Michigan. The Spartans later beat Pittsburgh in that season's Peach Bowl.

Should Tucker be fired for cause, the university will not have to pay him the balance. The extension has been scrutinized after it was revealed that wealthy MSU alumni had provided the school with generous donations to help fund it.

Secondary coach Harlon Barnett has taken over as acting head coach. MSU also brought back former head coach Mark Dantonio as an associate coach.

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