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Mel Tucker timeline: How the former MSU football coach fell

October 2, 2023
Head coach Mel Tucker walks down Beal St ahead of Michigan State’s home opener against Western Michigan at Spartan Stadium on Sept. 2, 2022.
Head coach Mel Tucker walks down Beal St ahead of Michigan State’s home opener against Western Michigan at Spartan Stadium on Sept. 2, 2022. —
Photo by Chloe Trofatter | The State News

Feb. 12, 2020

Mel Tucker is hired as Michigan State football head coach. His 10-year, $95 million contract made him the second highest paid coach in college football at the time.

Aug. 30, 2021

Brenda Tracy, a prominent rape survivor and advocate, visited campus to encourage healthy sexual practices on Tucker’s team. Players signed her "Set the Expectation Pledge," in which they promised to "obtain ongoing, affirmative consent" when engaging in sexual activities, among other practices. 

April 28, 2022

While on a university-sponsored trip, Tucker allegedly made sexual comments and masturbated over a phone call with Tracy, who claims she never gave her consent to the act. 

Dec. 2022

Tracy filed a complaint to MSU's Title IX office about Tucker's conduct, and a confidential investigation ensues. MSU leadership is told a complaint has been filed, but was given no details.

July 2023

The preliminary investigative report into Tucker's behavior was completed, and MSU administration learned of Tracy's identity. Athletic Director Alan Haller placed "oversight measures" on Tucker, such as limiting contact between him and Tracy.

Sep. 10, 2023

A USA Today report revealed the details of the investigation to the public and MSU administrators. Tracy had voluntarily shared documents with USA Today with the intention of publishing her story after the investigation concluded, but she later claimed a leak of her identity forced her to come out with the story sooner than planned.

Haller suspended Tucker without pay at a press conference later that day. Harlon Barnett and Mark Dantonio step in as his replacements.

Sep. 11, 2023

Amidst public outcry, Interim President Teresa Woodruff sent an email to the MSU community, addressing the eight-month delay between the report and Tucker’s suspension. She wrote that the integrity of the investigation was dependent on confidentiality in the process, "while respecting and valuing the claimant’s and respondent’s right to share their stories."

Tucker issued a response to the allegations, calling them "completely false" and "character assassination."

Tracy responded to Tucker, accusing him of delaying the investigation from the start: "This is just more of the same DARVO, deflection, victim blaming and lies that I’ve been dealing with now for months," she wrote.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer called for transparency from MSU: "We deserve to know when the university knew about these allegations and why they made the decisions they did," she wrote in the statement.

Sep. 12, 2023

In a statement released by Tracy's attorney Karen Truszkowski, she says Tracy never wanted to come forward publicly, but that "her choice to allow (MSU's investigation) to proceed privately was taken away" when local media learned her identity from someone else. The State News later reported that an early draft of the statement accused "someone associated with" the MSU Board of Trustees of leaking Tracy's identity. 

MSU started an investigation into the alleged leak with outside firm Jones Day, but doesn't publicly reveal this until a week later.

Sep. 13, 2023

Trustee Diane Byrum called for an investigation into the alleged leak.

Sep. 18, 2023

Haller, with the support of the administration and board, moved to fire Tucker. In the notice of intent sent to Tucker, Haller said Tucker's admitted behavior breaches the contract he holds with MSU. He said Tucker engaged in "conduct which constitutes moral turpitude," and brought "public disrespect, contempt, or ridicule upon the University." Tucker was given seven days to present Haller and Woodruff with sufficient reasons why his contract shouldn't be terminated.

Sep. 19, 2023

Tucker said 'other motives are at play' in MSU's decision to fire him in a statement. He claimed he brought concerns about a leak to MSU officials in late August, but they ignored them. Tucker also said that days before MSU sent its intent to terminate him, he emailed Haller to request a medical leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act for a serious health condition.

Sep. 25, 2023

Tucker gave his official response to MSU's intent to fire him. In the response — written on behalf of Tucker by his attorneys Jennifer Belveal and John Birmingham — he argued that the "moral turpitude" clause is "flimsy" and hard to define, and that the university was "embarrassed" because it investigated his "personal relationship."

Sep. 27, 2023

Haller officially fired Tucker, claiming his response "does not provide any information that refutes or undermines the multiple grounds for termination for cause set forth in the notice." Instead, Haller said Tucker provided "a litany of excuses for his inappropriate behavior while expressly admitting to the problematic conduct outlined in the notice."

Sep. 28, 2023

Tucker’s attorney, Jennifer Belveal, requested MSU to retain documents related to Tucker's time at MSU "in anticipation of litigation."

What's next:

The investigation into the leak is still ongoing. MSU Spokesperson Emily Guerrant was not able to provide an update into the status of the investigation last Wednesday.

A hearing on Oct. 5 and 6 will decide whether Tucker violated MSU's policies on relationship violence and sexual misconduct.

Barnett is being named interim head coach, pending approval from the board at its Oct. 27 meeting.

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