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Michigan State's Mel Tucker reportedly accused of sexually harassing anti-rape activist Brenda Tracy

EAST LANSING, MICHIGAN - SEPTEMBER 10: Head coach Mel Tucker of the Michigan State Spartans looks on during the game against the Akron Zips at Spartan Stadium on September 10, 2022 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)
Mel Tucker reportedly claimed he was having consensual phone sex with rape survivor Brenda Tracy. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)

Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker has been accused of sexually harassing rape survivor Brenda Tracy during her time working with the Spartans, according to USA Today's Kenny Jacoby.

Tracy, who has made a career of educating athletes about sexual violence in sports after being allegedly sexually assaulted by four men in 1998, reportedly accused Tucker of making sexual comments about her and masturbating during a phone call on April 28, 2022.

She reportedly filed a complaint against Tucker with Michigan State's Title IX office in December, with the outcome of the case still pending. Tucker reportedly acknowledged masturbating on the call in a statement to the Title IX investigator, but claimed it had been part of consensual "phone sex."

Tucker had previously invited Tracy to campus three times before the alleged incident, twice to speak to the team and once as an honorary captain at the Spartans' spring football game in 2022.

Tracy told USA Today the alleged incident reopened 25-year-old wounds:

“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.”

Tucker, who is married, reportedly claimed Tracy had mischaracterized the episode:

“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. “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.”

Tucker reportedly hung up on a USA Today reporter when asked about the case Saturday night, following a 45-14 win over Richmond.

Michigan State's outside Title IX attorney reportedly finished her investigation into the complaint in July, with a formal hearing on whether Tucker violated the school's sexual harassment policy scheduled during his team's bye week on Oct. 5 and 6.

Tucker signed a fully guaranteed 10-year, $95 million contract with Michigan State after leading the Spartans to an 11-2 record in his second year in East Lansing. That money could now be at risk depending on the outcome of that hearing.

The Michigan State program has seen a significant step back since Tucker landed his mega-deal, going 5-7 in 2022 with a 29-7 loss to rival Michigan.

Michigan State's Title IX investigator reportedly found holes in Mel Tucker's story

Per USA Today, Tracy provided six witnesses to the investigator — three of Tucker's assistants plus her assistant, therapist and attorney — while Tucker and his attorney reportedly tried to stop the investigation and twice contacted Tracy's attorney to propose a settlement agreement.

Tracy's phone bills reportedly showed she had spoken to Tucker on the phone at least 27 times, claiming they would talk about their jobs and more personal matters like families and mental health. The two reportedly went three months without talking after the phone call at the center of the allegations.

Tucker reportedly didn't meet with the investigator until March 22, at which point he made a number of claims that were refuted with further investigation. He allegedly claimed the "phone sex" call came from his home in East Lansing rather than a Florida hotel, as Tracy claimed. The investigator, however, obtained documents showing Tucker had been in Naples, Florida, at the time of the call to attend a golf event at Michigan State's expense.

He also allegedly claimed to have canceled an in-person training with Tracy on July 25, three months after the call, because his mental conditioning coach, Ben Newman, was implementing a new program, but the investigator reportedly obtained school records showing Newman did not hold any meetings between July 15 and 28.

Tucker's wildest claim was reportedly that he heard ESPN investigative reporter Paula Lavigne was investigating the veracity of Tracy's 1998 alleged sexual assault story, which he claimed made him question her. Lavigne denied she had ever worked on any such story:

“Neither [Tracy's] organization nor Tracy is or has been the target of any investigative reporting,” Lavigne said in a statement to USA Today. “I’m perplexed that Mel Tucker would respond to a complaint of sexual harassment by involving me or ESPN.”

Both sides reportedly deleted their text messages with each other, with Tucker claiming he regularly deletes text messages because he gets so many and Tracy saying she panicked after a later phone call in which she alleged he said, “I’ll be fine, it’s you that I am worried about.”

Tracy reportedly said she tried to cut all ties with Tucker after that final phone call and stay quiet to protect her career, but decided to come forward months later because she felt letting such behavior go would set a bad example in her field.

Michigan State reportedly blocked FOIA request for Mel Tucker complaints

Sexual assault has become a recurring issue at Michigan State over the last several years, most notably with the school leadership's protection of Larry Nassar, which eventually led to the exits of school president Lou Anna Simon and athletic director Mark Hollis.

Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo and former football coach Mark Dantonio have also both been accused of improper conduct related to sexual assault cases involving their players.

It was with that background that Michigan State reportedly blocked a Freedom Of Information Act request from ESPN for documents related to Tucker's case. The school's interim president reportedly cited state law that exempts information that "would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of an individual's privacy," with that privacy in this case concerning a phone call Tucker made while traveling on the athletic department's dime, in which he claimed to have phone sex with a person he previously hired to speak to his team multiple times.

From ESPN:

"Under FOIA's privacy exemption, information is exempt if (1) it is personal in nature, and (2) disclosure would reveal little to nothing about the inner workings of the government. Information is personal in nature when it is intimate, embarrassing, private, or confidential," Michigan State wrote in its denial.

ESPN says it believes the denial violated state open records law and has engaged Michigan-based law firm to pursue potential litigation.