EAST LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State University football coach Mel Tucker, who was suspended over allegations of sexual harassment, called them “completely false” in a statement on Monday.
Tucker, 51, called the investigation “devoid of any semblance of fairness,” and that his hearing in October would be “so flawed that there is no other opportunity for the truth to come out,” WDIV-TV reported.
Athletic Director Alan Haller confirmed on Sunday that Tucker was suspended without pay pending the outcome of an October investigation, according to MLive.com. Secondary coach Harlon Barnett will serve as the program’s interim coach and retired Spartans coach Mark Dantonio will serve as associate head coach, Haller told reporters.
The suspension came after a complaint of inappropriate conduct by sexual assault advocate Brenda Tracy, USA Today reported.
Tracy, who was raped 25 years ago by four men -- two Oregon State University football players, a junior college player and a high school recruit -- said that a telephone call in April 2022 between her and the fourth-year coach was inappropriate.
The detailed allegations included Tucker reportedly admitting to a Title IX investigator that he performed a lewd act during the phone call with Tracy, MLive reported. The allegations were released hours after the Spartans beat Richmond 45-14 on Saturday, according to the news outlet.
Tucker referred to the Oct. 5 hearing as a “sham” in his statement.
“I have no intention of allowing Ms. Tracy’s character assassination to go unaddressed,” Tucker wrote.
Tucker has not denied making that call and others to Tracy, but added in a statement that they had developed a mutual friendship that grew into “an intimate, adult relationship; at this point, my wife and I had been estranged for a long time,” WXMI-TV reported.
“Ms. Tracy and I engaged in dozens of calls throughout fall 2021 and winter 2022, many of which she initiated and which occurred late at night,” Tucker wrote. “We both talked about all sorts of intimate, private matters. She told me that I could trust her, and I proceeded to do just that.”
Haller said a Title IX investigator submitted a report on July 25 with the recommendation for a formal hearing in October, MLive.com reported.
Tucker said he was proud of his team, adding, “That is why I share some truth with you now.”
“I have been ripped from the team that I love, without any meaningful opportunity to tell my side of the story other than this press release,” Tucker wrote. “I am incredibly proud of the outstanding group of men on the Team and my heart aches to be sidelined. I ask everyone to consider carefully the undisputed facts outlined and reserve judgment until the full truth comes out.”