Michigan State University has fired head football coach Mel Tucker for inappropriate conduct. The fall comes as a shock, as Tucker had become one of the highest-paid coaches in College Football. Less than two years ago, he signed a record 10-year, $95 million contract.
The action comes just two weeks after sexual harassment allegations were revealed. The conduct against Tucker was created by Brenda Tracy, a prominent rape survivor and activist hired by Tucker to speak to his team about sexual violence and consent.
After the initial investigation MSU Athletic Director Alan Haller had suspended Tucker without pay pending completion of the case. One week later, Haller had notified Mel Tucker that he would be fired as the sexual conduct he admitted to violates his contract.
“Your unconvincing rationalizations and misguided attempt to shift responsibility cannot and do not excuse your own behavior,” Haller wrote in a letter to Tucker on Wednesday. “Had you not engaged in this inappropriate and unprofessional conduct, the University would not be subject to public disrespect and ridicule regarding your actions.”
Tracy had filed a complaint with the school’s Title IX office in December stating that Tucker pursued her romantically for several months. Although Tucker denies sexually harassing Tracy, he has acknowledged masturbating and making sexual comments during the call, saying he and Tracy had kindled a romance that culminated in consensual “phone sex.”
The firing may represent the beginning of more challenges for the school during a potentially ugly and expensive court battle. Tucker and his attorneys have indicated they will file a lawsuit against the school for wrongful termination and try to recoup the roughly $80 million remaining on his contract.
The hearing for the case is expected to occur on Oct. 5 and 6 with the stakes high for both Tracy and Tucker. Tracy has said she fears Tucker will damage her business and her legacy by painting her as a woman who mixes professional and personal relationships and files false reports. A finding of fault against Tucker would lower his odds of landing another coaching job.
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