Michigan State Suspends Head Coach After Rape Survivor Alleges He Sexually Harrassed Her During Phone Call: Report

School officials suspended Michigan State University head football coach Mel Tucker without pay on Sunday after a prominent rape survivor and activist accused him of sexual harassment during a phone call.

According to The Associated Press, Michigan State President Teresa K. Woodruff and athletic director Alan Haller announced the suspension pending the outcome of an MSU Title IX investigation into the allegations against the Spartans head coach.

Allegations against Tucker became public in a USA Today report in which Brenda Tracy, a rape survivor who educates athletes about sexual violence, said the football coach sexually harassed her during a phone call on April 28, 2022.

Tucker reportedly invited Tracy to the campus to speak three different times. On two occasions, Tracy spoke to the players and staff about sexual violence in sports culture and once to be recognized “as an honorary captain at the team’s spring football game,” the outlet wrote,

However, according to a complaint filed with the university’s Title IX office in December, Tracy reportedly “sat frozen for several minutes while Tucker made sexual comments about her and masturbated.”

“The idea that someone could know me 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,” she told USA TODAY. “It’s like he sought me out just to betray me.”

According to the report, the school hired an outside Title IX attorney to investigate Tracy’s complaint, which was concluded in July.

CBS reported Tracy three college football players and a recruit gang raped Tracy in 1998. She became a prominent activist against sexual violence in sports in 2014, and has spread the message of  “Violence against women must stop” across college sports. 

Tucker, who is married and has two children, acknowledged the accusations made against him during the phone call but claimed they had consensual “phone sex.”

“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, USA Today reported. “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.”

According to The Associated Press, Tucker’s $ 95 million, 10-year contract with MSU is only in its third year. If university officials fire Tucker, he would reportedly lose out on the remainder of his deal.

According to his contract, Michigan State may fire Tucker for cause if he “engages in any conduct which constitutes moral turpitude or which, in the University’s sole judgement, would tend to bring public disrespect, contempt or ridicule upon the university.”

MSU secondary coach Harlon Barnett will serve in Tucker’s place as interim head coach, with Michigan State’s former head coach Mark Dantonio as an associate head coach.

Tucker is reportedly scheduled to appear in a formal hearing beginning on October 5.

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