Nearly two years ago, Mel Tucker signed a 10-year, $95 million contract to stay on as the head football coach at Michigan State University. He instantly became one of the highest-paid coaches in all of college sports and easily the highest-paid Black coach in college athletics. But two years later, in a sport where there is already a small number of Black coaches, they are set to lose another one.
On Sunday, Michigan State announced that Tucker will be suspended without pay after he was accused of sexual harassment by a rape activist, according to USA Today.
The woman accusing him is Brenda Tracy, a rape survivor who has made a career out of educating young athletes about sexual violence. Tracy was brought to campus by Tucker multiple times to speak to his players about sexual violence against women and to ensure that none of his players commit a crime as heinous as rape or sexual assault.
Instead, Tucker was the one being accused of sexual misconduct, by the woman he brought on to educate his players and staff.
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But their relationship was upended during a phone call on April 28, 2022, Tracy says in a complaint she filed with the university’s Title IX office in December that remains under investigation.
According to her complaint, Tracy sat frozen for several minutes while Tucker made sexual comments about her and masturbated. His violation, she said, reopened 25-year-old wounds from her rape by four men – two Oregon State University football players, a junior college player and a high school recruit.
Tucker has admitted to masturbating on the call but says that the act was a part of consensual “phone sex” between him and Tracy, according to USA Today.
A Title IX attorney hired by the University finished their investigation in July and the hearing that will determine if Tucker broke the school’s policy on sexual harassment will be held on Oct. 5 and 6.
If it is found that he broke the rules, it’s hard to see a scenario where Tucker won’t be fired and it’ll be tough for him to find another job as a head coach in football, whether that’s in high school, college, or the NFL.
While hurting Tracy, the victim involved, this also potentially hurts the climate of Black coaches in college football. Currently, there are only 14 Black head coaches at a possible 133 FBS schools. That’s barely 10.5 percent.
Meaning if Tucker gets fired, due to his actions, the number of Black men who lead football teams will go down and the man who was set to be an example for other aspiring Black coaches to follow will be no more.