Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker has been accused of sexually harassing a prominent rape survivor and activist, according to a report by USA Today and corroborated by several other national media outlets.
Tucker, 51, is in his fourth season as Michigan State’s head coach after coming over from Colorado in 2020. A Cleveland native, he has also worked at Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, LSU and for the Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars in the NFL.
Tracy was raped by four men, two of them Oregon State football players, in 1998, and has since become an advocate for victims of sexual assault, particularly those committed on college campuses.
Tucker and Tracy created a partnership two years ago, to help change the culture of sexual violence in college athletics. Tucker had Tracy on Michigan State’s campus three times, twice speaking to the team and staff and once as an honoring caption for Michigan State’s spring game.
But everything changed in late April 2022, according to Tracy’s complaint filed under Michigan State’s Title IX office this past December. that’s still being investigated.
During a phone call between Tracy and Tucker, the MSU coach made sexual comments about Tracy and masturbated, according to the complaint.
Tracy told USA Today that this brought back the pain of her rape, which was perpetrated by four football players, three college players and a high school recruit.
“The idea that someone could know me,” Tracy told USA Today, “and say they understand my trauma but then re-inflict that trauma on me is so disgusting to me, it’s hard for me to even wrap my mind around it. It’s like he sought me out just to betray me.”
Tucker contends that the incident was consensual. He has been married to Jo-Ellen Tucker for over 20 years and the couple has two sons.
“Ms. Tracy’s distortion of our mutually consensual and intimate relationship into allegations of sexual exploitation has really affected me,” Tucker wrote in a March 22 letter to the investigator. “I am not proud of my judgment and I am having difficulty forgiving myself for getting into this situation, but I did not engage in misconduct by any definition.”
An investigation conducted by a Michigan State-hired Title IX attorney was finished in July. There will also be a formal hearing held Oct 5-6, during Michigan State’s bye week. This hearing will determine if Tucker violated MSU’s policy, which bans sexual harassment and exploitation.
Tracy told USA Today that Tucker is going forward with a threat to ruin her career by portraying her as someone who combines personal and professional relationships and puts false reports into place.
“She fears he will undo her legacy,” USA Today writes.
Michigan State will now deal with yet another sexual assault allegation after failing to act for nearly two decades against former sports medicine Dr. Larry Nassar, who worked with the school’s gymnastics team.
MSU signed Tucker to a 10-year, $95 million contract extension in 2021 that is fully guaranteed against performance.
Penn State is scheduled to play at Michigan State on Nov. 24.