MSU Head Coach Fired for 'Moral Turpitude'

Mel Tucker admitted masturbating during phone call with sexual assault prevention activist
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 27, 2023 12:58 PM CDT
MSU Head Coach Fired for 'Moral Turpitude'
Michigan State coach Mel Tucker walks the sideline during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Richmond, Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023, in East Lansing, Mich.   (AP Photo/Al Goldis, File)

Michigan State University has officially fired head football coach Mel Tucker for breaking the moral turpitude clause of the record $95 million contract he signed in 2021. Tucker was suspended earlier this month following a USA Today report on sexual harassment allegations from Brenda Tracy, a rape survivor and activist hired to speak to the team about sexual assault prevention in 2021. In a complaint filed with the university's Title IX office last year, Tracy said the married coach had pursued her romantically and masturbated without her consent during a phone call last year. She said he hinted he would ruin her career if she spoke out.

According to case documents Tracy shared with USA Today, Tracy and Tucker both told the Title IX investigator that they "hit it off" after she spoke to the team and developed a personal relationship, chatting on the phone around once every two weeks. Tucker claimed the flirtation was mutual but Tracy gave a very different account, saying she felt he had only pretended to be interested in her cause to to get close to her. "It's like he sought me out just to betray me," she said. Tucker admitted he had masturbated during a phone call, which Michigan State athletic director Alan Haller said was cause for firing, since Tracy is considered a university vendor.

"It is decidedly unprofessional and unethical to flirt, make sexual comments, and masturbate while on the phone with a University vendor," Haller wrote in a letter to Tucker, per USA Today. "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." Haller said the coach's response to a letter of termination sent last week "does not provide any information that refutes or undermines the multiple grounds for termination for cause set forth in the notice."

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Instead it "provides a litany of excuses for his inappropriate behavior while expressly admitting to the problematic conduct outlined in the notice," Haller said. Because Tucker is being fired for cause, the university could save almost $80 million on his 10-year contract, CBS Sports reports. The university's Title IX investigation concluded in July and a hearing is scheduled for next week, the AP reports. The coach insists that the allegations are "completely false" and says the phone sex was consensual. (Read more MSU stories.)

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