NOVAK: MSU has no choice with Tucker

Published 4:59 am Saturday, September 23, 2023

Mel Tucker is not an ignorant man. He is not a naive one either. But the Michigan State University Football coach may have allowed his ego to get the best of him.

Tucker was suspended by Michigan State after a story surfaced in USA Today about potential sexual assault allegations against him. He claims that it was consensual, but let’s face it, that probably did not even figure into MSU’s decision to go ahead and terminate him for cause.

Two things stick out here for me. The first being that Tucker is supposed to be a leader of young men. The thing he admitted to doing with this former rape victim, consensual of not, would make it extremely tough for him to walk into a recruit’s living room and tell his parents that he will take care of their child for the next four years. The second, and perhaps most important, is that Michigan State is still reeling from the Larry Nassar sexual assault scandal. I do not think MSU had any choice but to let Tucker go.

Actually, there is a third issue that probably aided the university in making their decision. Tucker as the head coach having a sexual relationship with a vendor to the school just makes it a bad situation all the way around.

Mel Tucker is going to try and fight back. Where he has a leg to stand on is yet to be seen. What I do know is that he is far from out of the woods as the Title IX investigation, which was concluded in July, is scheduled to be address in two weeks. He may be facing bigger issues than just losing his job and a pretty sizable amount of money.

Michigan State is using his contract to not only terminate Tucker, who is 20-14 as the Spartans’ head coach, but to get out of paying the remaining amount of money from the 10-year, $95 million contract he signed in 2021.

Tucker went on the offensive Tuesday when he released his response to MSU’s intent to terminate his employment. I cannot say I agree with most of his points.

“I am disappointed — but not surprised — to learn that MSU intends to terminate my contract over Ms. [xxx] Tracy’s improper public disclosure of the entire 1,200-page investigation file regarding her baseless complaint against me,” the statement said. “Let’s be clear, 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. A cursory reading of the facts and timeline should cause any fair-minded person to conclude that other motives are at play.”

Of course, other motives are at play. Michigan State does not want to pay you the remainder of your contract. They probably feel that you are no viable as its head coach due to the things you admitted to, again, consensual of not. They want to move past this situation as quickly as possible so that the Spartan community can continue healing from the Nassar scandal and put your scandal in the rearview mirror as well.

Tucker went on to say that the school knew this information since at least March. He said they did nothing about it until it became public, legally or not. 

He claims the school has no interest in the truth or due process. He claims MSU ignored his concerns about leaks relating to the investigation. He also said that they issued the termination notice “just days” after he requested a medical leave for a serious health condition.

Tucker may be naïve after all, because if he things most of these points hold water, he is mistaken.

You claim the school was not interested in the truth or due process. Perhaps that why they did not fire you back in March. Maybe they were doing their due diligence and looking into the claims made against you and did not want to rush to judgment. I have to question your serious health condition, which you did not bring up prior to the season starting, nor did you make this claim when MSU originally suspended you. It came days later when it became clear that you were more than likely going to be fired.

If I were Mel Tucker, I would spend less time trying to drag Michigan State through the mud and start negotiating a settlement that would at least allow you to take a portion of that contract with you. I am sure the administration would rather do that than have another lawsuit that drags on for months.

Michigan State must now try to salvage the 2023 season, decide which direction it wants to go moving forward. The Spartans are still one of the top programs in the country, but if they let this drag them down for very long, they could find themselves back to where they started before hiring Mark Dantonio, who brought MSU football back to the national forefront.


Scott Novak is sports editor for Leader Publications. He can be reached at scott.novak@leaderpub.comw