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Harlon Barnett and Mark Dantonio to step in for Mel Tucker during suspension

September 10, 2023
<p>Assistant head coach and co-defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett discusses his history with head coach Mark Dantonio during a press conference on Dec. 16, 2015 at Spartan Stadium. Members of the coaching staff discussed team preparations for the upcoming Cotton Bowl against Alabama. (Alice Cole | The State News)</p>

Assistant head coach and co-defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett discusses his history with head coach Mark Dantonio during a press conference on Dec. 16, 2015 at Spartan Stadium. Members of the coaching staff discussed team preparations for the upcoming Cotton Bowl against Alabama. (Alice Cole | The State News)

After the suspension of Michigan State football Head Coach Mel Tucker, Interim President Teresa K. Woodruff and Athletic Director Alan Haller announced during their Sunday afternoon press conference that Secondary Coach Harlon Barnett will take over as head coach while Tucker is away from the team.

The suspension comes after a USA Today Report cited alleged sexual misconduct between Tucker and Brenda Tracy, a sexual assault survivor who now acts as a public speaker on issues regarding sexual violence in sports. 

Former Head Coach Mark Dantonio is also being brought back as an Associate Head Coach. 

"Coach Barnett has an incredible connection to our university and takes incredible pride in being a Spartan," Haller said during the conference. "He has established relationships with student athletes, and is focused on their well being first and foremost. Coach Dantonio not only is an exceptional football coach, but will be a tremendous resource for Harlon. Both men have a deep love and care for Michigan State football, Spartan athletics, the university and the East Lansing community."

Barnett is currently in his 15th year with the Spartans after returning to the staff in 2020 after a stint with Florida State. His whole tenure has been spent in a role of coaching the secondary unit. 

Dantonio returns after a successful head coaching stint winning three Big Ten Championships, the Rose Bowl in 2014 and the program’s only College Football Playoff appearance in 2015. 

While Dantonio has been named the Associate Head Coach, his current role on game days is still unclear.

"I called coach Dantonio this morning," Haller said. "And his response was Alan, whatever you need, I'm here to help. So he was excited to be back and Coach D will probably be back at some point tomorrow, if not tomorrow, definitely on Tuesday. We're still trying to figure out his role but he definitely will wear a headset either on the sidelines or up in the booth and he'll offer his knowledge of his coaching career. So I think it'd be a tremendous asset for our student athletes and our staff and the student athletes were fired up when I mentioned that to them."

Tucker’s Title IX hearing is scheduled for Oct. 5 and 6, during the Spartans bye week. 

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