Michigan coach Mel Tucker alludes to potential lawsuit, discloses ‘serious health condition’

EAST LANSING — Michigan State University football coach Mel Tucker said Tuesday that he was “disappointed –but not surprised – to learn” that the university intends to fire him next week.

As he faces a hearing on a sexual harassment claim filed by a rape survivor and activist, Tucker called the entire process a “miscarriage of justice” in a statement released through his agent, Neil Cornrich. He said the university does not care about his rights or the truth.

He also noted that he recently emailed Athletic Director Alan Haller “requesting a medical leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act for a serious health condition.” He did not provide additional details on the health condition but said the request was sent “just days” before he received the university’s notice of termination on Monday.

“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,” he wrote in the statement. “A cursory reading of the facts and timeline should cause any fair-minded person to conclude that other motives are at play.

Tucker suggested he will file a lawsuit against the university, mentioning “discovery,” the phase of litigation where information is exchanged between parties, which precedes a settlement or a trial.

“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.”

Messages seeking comment were left with Dan Olsen, a spokesperson for the university, and Matt Larson, a spokesperson for the athletic department.

The university’s letter to Tucker informing him that it plans to terminate his contract for cause cited the USA TODAY story that for the first time detailed the sexual harassment complaint against him by activist Brenda Tracy, as well as the public backlash that followed. Tracy alleges Tucker made sexual comments and masturbated without her consent during an April 2022 phone call.

Tucker took issue with the timing of the school’s decision to fire him, saying in his statement that it did not move to fire him in March, when he was interviewed by the outside investigator Michigan State hired.

Michigan State has said that university leaders were unaware of the details of the allegations until the USA TODAY story because it kept a firewall between the Title IX office and the administration to prevent officials from tampering with the case.

Although Tucker denied sexually harassing Tracy, he acknowledged masturbating and making sexual comments during the call in question. He claims he and Tracy had a consensual romantic relationship, which Tracy denies.

In the letter Monday to Tucker, Haller said that even Tucker’s admitted conduct, taken as fact, constitutes a fireable offense. Having a sexual relationship with a vendor for the university whom he had hired to provide sexual misconduct training to his coaches and players, Haller said, caused the university to endure public ridicule and embarrassment, which are grounds for his termination.

The letter is a required step, pursuant to his contract, and Tucker has until Sept. 26 to submit reasons to Haller why he should not be fired for cause.

Check back for updates.

Contact reporter Matt Mencarini at 517-377-1026 or mjmencarini@lsj.com. Follow him on Twitter @MattMencarini. Kenny Jacoby is an investigative reporter for USA TODAY covering sexual harassment and violence and Title IX. Contact him by email at kjacoby@usatoday.com or follow him on X @kennyjacoby.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Coach Mel Tucker alludes to possible lawsuit against MSU

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