Gorney: What a mess in East Lansing

When it comes to allegations of sexual harassment, especially when it’s aimed at a rape survivor who travels around the country sharing her story, football takes a major backseat.

But when it comes to this whole Mel Tucker situation at Michigan State amid a pending Title IX investigation as to whether the coach will keep his job, all that comes to mind is – what a mess, and what could have been.

It’s not my job to pick sides and there seem to be two here after reading the extensive USA Today report and other articles about this topic.

Tucker’s is that he was engaged in a consensual relationship with Brenda Tracy, a rape survivor who works to educate athletes about her experience and sexual assault. Tracy’s side is that Tucker made unwanted sexual comments and masturbated on a phone call without her consent. Tucker later acknowledged the phone call incident to investigators but characterized it as “phone sex.”

According to those reports, after the phone call on April 28, 2022, Tracy filed a complaint with Michigan State’s Title IX office which hired an outside attorney to investigate.

The university held a press conference on Sunday with interim president Teresa Woodruff and athletics director Alan Haller where they announced Tucker is being suspended without pay. Defensive backs coach Harlon Barnett will serve as the team’s acting head coach, with former head coach Mark Dantonio returning as an assistant.

What a mess.

Michigan State is 2-0 with blowout wins over Central Michigan and Richmond to start the season. The Spartans prepare this week for a showdown in East Lansing with eighth-ranked Washington.

Least of my concern is for Tucker at this moment and more for all the young men on the team who pour everything they have – and are commanded to do so for 365 days a year – that they’re affected by this because their coach couldn’t control himself.

Tucker was brought to Michigan State with an exemplary on-field resume.

He had extensive NFL experience. He was the assistant head coach at Alabama and the defensive coordinator at Georgia. One year of head coaching experience at Colorado where he went 5-7 was enough to bring him in to replace Dantonio, as the program was getting stale after multiple double-digit win seasons.

It’s been feast or famine so far for Tucker, who signed an incredible 10-year, $95-million extension in 2021. Michigan State went all in on Tucker and whether the allegations are legitimate, a misunderstanding or something in the middle, it’s clear that Tucker erred egregiously and in a disgusting manner.

Hours after all the Tucker news broke, no commits had backed off their pledges to the Spartans. No one is saying much yet.

But the question remains: What becomes of the Michigan State football program until the investigation is finished and Tucker’s ultimate future is determined. Can he survive in East Lansing – and will anybody there even want him to?

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