Friday, September 29, 2023

Football coach Mel Tucker says 'other motives are at play' in MSU's decision to fire him

September 19, 2023
<p>Head Coach Mel Tucker looks on during the Spartans game against the Wolverines. Oct. 30, 2021. </p>

Head Coach Mel Tucker looks on during the Spartans game against the Wolverines. Oct. 30, 2021.

Photo by Chloe Trofatter | The State News

Mel Tucker has responded to MSU’s intent to terminate his employment with the university. In a statement released by sports agent Neil Cornrich, Tucker claims MSU treated him unfairly in its investigation and that “other motives are at play” in MSU's handling of the situation.

“I am 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,” Tucker wrote in the statement. “Let's be clear. I don't believe MSU plans to fire me because I admitted to an entirely consensual, private relationship with another adult who gave one presentation at MSU, at my behest, over two years ago. A cursory reading of the facts and timeline should cause any fair-minded person to conclude that other motives are at play.”

Tucker claims MSU ignored its own policies when they suspended him following the release of a USA Today report, which revealed him to be the subject of an ongoing Title IX investigation. In it, rape survivor and advocate Brenda Tracy accused Tucker of making lewd comments and masturbating without consent over a phone call. Tracy worked with Tucker’s team in the past to teach them about healthy sexual conduct.

Tucker claims MSU knew details of the case since March 2023, three months after Tracy filed the complaint with MSU’s Title IX office, yet only acted once Tracy came forward through the press. MSU should have waited for the official hearing to take place in October, Tucker argued, before terminating him.

“The investigation is designed to determine if I violated policy," Tucker wrote. “I did not. But regardless, basic fairness requires that process play out before any sanction(s) are determined.”

Tracy released a statement on Sept. 12 claiming her identity was leaked to the press, forcing her to come forward in the USA Today report. 

“I voluntarily shared documents with USA Today so that my story could be written and published after the conclusion of the school process, but also just in case my name leaked - which it did,” Tracy wrote. “I did not want to publish my story in the early morning hours last weekend, but I had no choice because someone outed me to the media.”

MSU launched an investigation into the origins of the alleged leak the same day. MSU Deputy Spokesperson Dan Olsen was not able to confirm whether the investigation was a result of Tracy’s statement at the time of publication.

Tucker claimed he brought concerns about a leak to MSU officials in late August, but they ignored them. 

“MSU never acknowledged my request, let alone responded,” Tucker wrote. “Yet after Ms. Tracy's attorney recently complained about an alleged leak of her client's name, MSU hired an outside law firm to investigate, stating confidentiality in these matters 'is paramount.' So when I complain, nothing happens; when she complains, MSU acts? This double standard reflects the bias against me throughout this process.”

Tucker said that days before MSU sent its intent to terminate him, he emailed Athletic Director Alan Haller to request a medical leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act for a serious health condition. 

Tucker's agent Neil Cornrich said that Haller told Tucker requesting medical leave was "unnecessary," without inquiring into his condition. He was given notice of termination a couple of days later.

“I can only conclude that MSU does not care about my rights, the truth, or its future liability for policing its employees' private lives,” Tucker wrote. “Ms. Tracy manufactured false allegations against me. MSU ignored its own policies in pursuing a biased investigation into them. MSU was supposedly going to let that flawed process play out before deciding what to do, but has now reneged on even that. While this miscarriage of justice has devastated me and my family, I find solace in knowing that the investigator concluded we had a 'personal relationship.' Ms. Tracy expressed consent to every facet of our relationship."

Tucker alluded to possible litigation against MSU for their handling of the situation.

"I look forward to one day obtaining discovery against MSU, including the Trustees and the Athletic Department, to see what they really knew and said about this matter, as well as their motives in handling the entire investigative process,” Tucker said. 

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