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Michigan State Suspends Football Coach Mel Tucker Amidst Reports of Sexual Harassment Accusations

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NCAA Football: Big Ten Football Media Day Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan State Athletic Director Alan Haller announced Sunday that Michigan State’s Head Football coach will be suspended without pay. The announcement came less than 12 hours after an explosive USA TODAY report detailed a complaint filed under Title IX that accused Mr. Tucker of sexually harassing a prominent advocate against sexual violence.

The full USA TODAY piece is worth a read: READ HERE

What is Title IX?

The complaint against Mr. Tucker was filed under Title IX, which puts Michigan State University squarely in the middle of this - not only as Mr. Tucker’s employer, but also as the eventual arbiter of the facts. It should be understood that Title IX proceedings are different from standard criminal or civil scenarios.

While criminal proceedings are designed to find formal guilt of violating a state or federal crime, Title IX proceedings cover a wider range of issues, with significantly different procedures and determinations. Title IX is a Federal law that protects students and employees in educational settings and ensures they are treated fairly and equally.

Title IX protects against various types of discrimination in educational settings, including sexual harassment. Schools implement administrative policies and procedures to comply with Title IX. To comply with Title IX, schools must work to resolve concerns raised in formal complaints which may include: investigating the claim, making determinations of fault, and setting punishments for those found at fault under their jurisdiction.

Title IX proceedings are confidential and cannot result in punishments outside the jurisdiction of the school. For example a school may punish someone found to be at fault by terminating their employment or expelling them from their academic pursuits on campus, but they have no power to impose a punishment such as incarceration.

Mr. Tucker and his legal representatives did try to argue that Michigan State lacked jurisdiction over the matter, though according to USA TODAY:

Michigan State was not persuaded. The alleged conduct would be covered by school policy, it concluded, because it took place in the context of [the accuser’s] work as a vendor for the school and affected their ongoing business relationship.

The Investigation is Ongoing

The outside attorney brought in to investigate the matter by Michigan State concluded their investigation in July of 2023. Instead of issuing a statement of fault at the time, the attorney referred the matter to a hearing. That hearing is now scheduled for October 5th and 6th - notably during the Michigan State Football team’s bye week.

Michigan State Names Interim Head Coach

AD Haller announced longtime assistant Harlon Barnett will be acting head coach and former Spartan head coach Mark Dantonio will serve as an associate head coach. Barnett has coached for Michigan State for a cumulative 15 years over the course of his career. Until today, he was the defensive backs coach for the Spartans.

A Request to Our Community

Feelings are undoubtedly running high. Accusations, particularly of a sexual nature, tend to send people into fighting corners. Accusations against leaders and icons of programs also inherently position people in protective stances, at times putting their love of alma mater above civil discourse and open mindedness.

It would be too much for me to ask people to withhold judgment, we are all people. What I do ask is that we do our best to:

  • Stick to the facts that are known
  • Refrain from any attacks on the accuser (or any accuser, now and forever)
  • Try to step back from the edge of making this personal to you, or the other members of The Only Colors community.

Love of Michigan State can, and will survive this situation. Rational people can be both upset about the actions of an individual and proud of the institution they happen to serve. You can be a proud Michigan State alumni and fan, and still be angry about this situation, and the judgment shown by Mel Tucker.

A Closing Statement on Community Comments

For the moment, I have asked SB Nation to keep the comments on this article open. Comments will be monitored by the content moderation team. That is the nature of situations like this, and to keep commentary within the bounds of civil discourse, sometimes moderation is necessary.

Our editorial team will return to coverage of the on-field activities of Michigan State tomorrow. That will not be a sign that we have any less concern for this situation, it is rather our approach to keeping our commitment to our community to provide coverage and opinion on the sports activities of Michigan State.

Engagement and commentary is central to the existence of this community. As such, I hope we can discuss this situation openly and with courtesy towards each other.