EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Suspended Michigan State football coach Mel Tucker said Tuesday that he is “disappointed — but not surprised” that the school intends to fire him for misconduct involving activist and rape survivor Brenda Tracy and suggested that “other motives are at play” in the school’s decision.
The university informed Tucker on Monday that he will be fired without compensation for misconduct involving Tracy, who said Tucker sexually harassed her during a phone call in April 2022. She later filed a complaint with the school’s Title IX office, which completed its investigation in July.
He said in a statement Tuesday that he is “disappointed — but not surprised — to learn that MSU intends to terminate my contract over Ms. Tracy’s improper public disclosure of the entire 1200-page investigation file regarding her baseless complaint against me.”
Tracy is known for her work with college teams educating athletes about sexual violence. Michigan State paid her $10,000 to share her story with the football team. Tracy became friends with Tucker over her advocacy work, but that relationship took a turn in April 2022 when Tucker masturbated during a phone call with her, USA Today reported.
In his statement Tuesday, Tucker said he doesn’t think MSU is trying to fire him over his dealings with Tracy.
“A cursory reading of the facts and timeline should cause any fair-minded person to conclude that other motives are at play,” he said.
In part, Tucker said MSU “knew about the information on which it supposedly relies to end my contract since at least March 2023.”
He also said that only after “Ms. Tracy and potentially others leaked the confidential investigation report to the press, did MSU suddenly decide this same information warrants termination.”
“MSU is punishing me for Ms. Tracy’s leak, which violated MSU’s rules regarding confidentiality of the investigation,” Tucker wrote.
Tucker is in the third year of a $95 million, 10-year contract. If he is fired for cause, the school would not have to pay him what remains on the deal.
He acknowledged to investigators last spring that he masturbated during the phone call with Tracy, but he insisted it was consensual “phone sex” and that the call was outside the scope of both Title IX and school policy.
Michigan State, however, said the actions Tucker acknowledged were unprofessional and unethical.
The school has said it is looking into the source of a leak that led to Tracy’s identity being revealed as part of an investigation into her allegations against Tucker.
Tracy’s attorney, Karen Truszkowski, said this month that her client’s name was disclosed by an outside party and that the disclosure triggered their cooperation with a USA Today report that exposed explicit details.
Truszkowski didn’t immediately respond to a message left Tuesday seeking comment about Tucker’s latest statement.
A hearing is scheduled for the week of Oct. 5 to determine if Tucker violated the school’s sexual harassment and exploitation policy. A ruling could take up to 60 days.
Tracy has not replied to multiple messages seeking additional comment. But she wrote on social media last week that, “Coach Tucker has been delaying and trying to stop the investigative process since the beginning. He can’t afford to go to a hearing that determines credibility of the participating parties.”
Tucker said Tuesday that the “investigation is designed to determine if I violated policy. I did not. But regardless, basic fairness requires that process play out before any sanction(s) are determined.”