Michigan State has served notice to terminate Mel Tucker as football coach

Michigan State has served notice of intent to Mel Tucker it will be terminating its employment agreement with the head football coach. The effective date of that termination will be Sept. 26.

Sources have indicated to Spartans Illustrated that MSU Vice President and Athletic Director Alan Haller informed the team that the university has served Tucker notice of intent to terminate the contract for cause during a team meeting earlier today.

Michigan State’s notice of intent provided to Mel Tucker today. (MSU Athletics)

As for where the MSU football team goes from here, the rules allow for players to enter their names into the NCAA transfer portal for the next 30 days following termination of their head coach. That date will begin next Tuesday, Sept. 26.

However, a player does not necessarily have to leave if they want to enter their name into the portal. Players can later withdraw their names from the portal if they decide they would rather stay in East Lansing after the next head coach is hired. They will have to wait until they can enroll in classes before they can begin playing at their next school if they choose to leave, so no players will be suiting up this fall for another team even if they do choose to leave MSU following Tucker’s termination.

In its notice letter, Michigan State cited Tucker’s cause for termination as being for breach of his agreement related to his terms of employment under the agreement. Specifically, Tucker is being cited for engaging “in any conduct which constitutes moral turpitude or which, in the University’s reasonable judgement, would tend to bring public disrespect, contempt, or ridicule upon the University.”

The letter goes on to cite “undisputed facts” regarding its decision to terminate his contract. Among these include Tucker’s own admission that he made comments about university vendor and claimant Brenda Tracy‘s physical appearance and body parts, made flirtatious comments in frequent conversations with her, and engaged in “phone sex” with her, all while married.

MSU makes clear the ongoing investigation into the claims of sexual harassment will continue, but that by Tucker’s own admitted actions he is in material breach of his employment agreement. The letter further cites Tucker’s failure to ” keep positive and constructive in tone any public comments about University policies or actions taken by University administrators and conducting [your]self professionally and ethically, with integrity and sportsmanship at all times.” The University specifically emphasizes that Tucker failed to adhere to this requirement as it related to a University vendor, specifically “at all times.”

For the full copy of the letter, you can find a copy in the Spartans Illustrated Message Board forums here.

Tucker has been suspended without pay since Sept. 10 following publication of the details of an alleged sexual harassment claim being investigated against him by the University.

Following his suspension, Harlon Barnett was named the acting head coach with Mark Dantonio rejoining the coaching staff as associate head coach. The Spartans lost 41-7 to then No. 8 Washington in the first game following Tucker’s suspension.

Tucker’s four partial seasons with Michigan State have been a roller coaster experience of ups and downs. Entering just his fourth season this fall in East Lansing, Tucker was hired in 2020 after the second signing period and just weeks before the coronavirus pandemic shut down the country for several months.

With the abrupt retirement of Dantonio — who was Michigan State’s head coach from the 2007 season until early 2020 — Tucker had essentially no time to build his own roster for his first season, or to even gauge the roster he inherited ahead of a shortened first season due to limited practices adhering to COVID-19 protocols and no spring practices as a result of the global pandemic.

Following a 2-5 inaugural campaign that saw multiple blowout losses averaging 26.5-point margins of defeat, the lone victories came over No. 13 Michigan and No. 11 Northwestern in 2020.

Just one season later, Tucker posted a 11-2 season in 2021, complete with a New Year’s Six bowl victory over Pittsburgh in Atlanta and No. 9 finish in the final AP Poll of the season. The team’s performance that season helped propel him to one of the most lucrative coaching contracts in the industry. Presumed a target of several prominent football programs needing to fill job openings that cycle, including rumors of LSU‘s interest, which previously hired away Nick Saban from MSU after his 1999 season in East Lansing, Tucker was given a $95 million guaranteed contract for the next 10 years in order to prevent his departure from MSU.

Then an injury plagued season in 2022 combined with questionable in-game coaching decisions left fans angry at a 5-7 record last fall. That seemingly left Tucker in the conversation just a month ago as to what his team needed to do this fall to avoid entering the 2024 season on the hot seat in an expanded Big Ten Conference.

Instead, after starting the 2023 season with a 2-0 record, the previously unavailable lewd details of the accusations made against Tucker in an ongoing sexual harassment investigation have finally become public.

MSU confirmed that AD Haller did not have access to the full nature of the allegation made against Tucker and was only given certain limited information necessary for his supervisory role over Tucker. This is the standard procedure in these types of internal investigations in order to protect both claimants and the accused. Currently, a final hearing is scheduled for Tucker’s case the week of Oct. 5 when the team has a bye week.

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