Michigan State plans to fire Mel Tucker for cause

Mel Tucker’s long, varied and successful coaching career, which culminated in November 2021 when he signed a 10-year, $95 million contract extension that rocked the college football market, reached its nadir on Monday. Michigan State University announced that it had informed Tucker of its intention to terminate that contract for cause after a sexual harassment allegation against him surfaced publicly on Sept. 10.

In a statement issued Monday afternoon, athletic director Alan Haller wrote, “I have, with the support of administration and the board, provided Mel Tucker with a written notice of intent to terminate his contract for cause.” This notification process is required under his existing contract. The notice gives Tucker seven calendar days to respond and provide me and the interim president with reasons why he should not be terminated for cause. This lawsuit does not close the Office for Civil Rights’ ongoing case; This rigorous process will continue.”

That contract, so bold at the time it was signed, included a statement that termination could occur if Tucker, now 51, “engages in conduct that constitutes, or would, in the sole discretion of the University, constitute moral turpitude “To provoke public disrespect or contempt.” Rape and well-known advisor to football programs about sexual assault ongoing university investigation. If Tucker continues to maintain his innocence and pursues reinstatement or legal action, there will be further investigation.

The “for cause” issue will determine what Michigan State might owe of the remaining roughly $80 million.

Buckner: Mel Tucker’s poor judgment undermined his larger mission

Tracy had visited and spoken with the Michigan State program in August 2021 and served as an honorary captain for the spring game in April 2022. In the complaint, she alleged that Tucker masturbated during a phone call with her on April 28, 2022, learned of the sudden cancellation of her scheduled training visit to Michigan State in July 2022, and filed her complaint in December 2022.

Since then, the university had been collecting evidence. When Tucker was suspended on September 10, Tucker responded that the long-distance relationship was consensual and called the claim “completely false.” A hearing has been scheduled for Oct. 5-6.

Michigan State is one of three Big Ten universities, including neighboring universities Michigan and Ohio State, that have suffered from sexual allegations and convictions against university doctors this century, many of which date back to the last century. Of these three cases, the Michigan State case became the most visible because it involved the trial and conviction of osteopathic doctor and professor Larry Nassar, who had been imprisoned since 2018 after pleading guilty to using his medical treatment as a front for attacks on hundreds to have used female victims, including members of the U.S. gymnastics team. While the Tucker case didn’t spark widespread protests last Saturday, as the Spartans lost 41-7 to Washington in front of 70,528 fans at Spartan Stadium, a resurgence of an old anguish emerged in social media posts.

From 1997 until this month, Tucker, who played defensive back at Wisconsin, had a successful coaching career, mostly as an assistant, that took him to seven universities and three NFL franchises. He coached under Nick Saban at Michigan State (1997-98), LSU (2000) and Alabama (2015). As an assistant, he won two national championship rings, at Ohio State (2002) and Alabama (2015). He served as interim coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-3) in 2011 and as defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns (2008) and Chicago Bears (2013-14).

His work as defensive coordinator at Georgia (2016-18) under former Alabama coach Kirby Smart kept his name in college football’s annual rumor mill until Colorado acquired him from Georgia in December 2018. He coached through the 2019 season at Colorado, going 5-7, but suddenly and controversially left in February 2020 for Michigan State, where 13-year head coach Mark Dantonio had just resigned, leading the program to a spot in college football playoffs (2015–16) and a Rose Bowl victory (2013–14) among 114 wins and 57 losses.

At Michigan State University, Tucker quickly did two things that gained him respect. His teams defeated Michigan twice, in 2020 and 2021, and the 2021 season was on a roll. When Michigan State beat Michigan 37-33 in a thriller in East Lansing on Oct. 30, the Spartans moved to 8-0 and were No. 3 in the country. While losses to Purdue and Ohio State littered the rest of the way, the Spartans finished the regular season with a 30-27 win over Penn State and landed in one of the coveted New Year’s Six bowl games by defeating Pittsburgh 31-21 the Peach Bowl in Atlanta.

Three days before that Penn State game, as new suitors entered the discussion surrounding Tucker, Michigan State announced the contract that moved him to second among college coaches in annual compensation behind Saban, who Alabama had already won six national titles.

At the time, Haller said in a statement: “The decision to extend Mel Tucker’s contract is not based on one year’s results, but rather is an investment in a promising future for Spartan football.” Board of Trustees Chair Dianne Byrum said: “We are excited about his success at Michigan State University and the renewed enthusiasm for our football program in the Spartan community.” School President Samuel Stanley said, “In less than two years, his leadership has already led a program to compete for top honors competes and I am impressed by his intensity and drive.”

Tucker wrote on Twitter, “Every day I wake up humbled to be the head coach at Michigan State” and “It’s an honor to be a part of the Spartan process today and for years to come.”

However, the next season brought a dramatic decline. The Spartans took a 5-7 lead and lost significantly to Minnesota (34-7), Ohio State (49-20), Michigan (29-7) and Penn State (35-16). The Spartans ranked 97th nationally in total offense and 101st in total defense. Their season ended in State College, Pennsylvania, where Tucker was asked to evaluate the season and said, “Now is not the time for me to do that.” The contract seemed even heavier.

Just two Saturdays ago, Michigan State defeated visiting Richmond 45-14 to move to 2-0 against non-Power Five opponents with No. 8 Washington in contention. “We’ll be prepared,” Tucker said. “We have some good players on offense, defense and special teams and we have the potential to get even better.” The next day he was suspended and replaced by “acting coach” Harlon Barnett, a Spartans stalwart has his own base in the stadium hallways that draws attention to his playing career at the school in the late 1980s. Last Saturday, the Spartans rarely looked helpless in their 41-7 loss, and Barnett spoke of the need to “normalize.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2023/09/18/mel-tucker-fired/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=wp_homepage Michigan State plans to fire Mel Tucker for cause

Ian Walker

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