A hearing officer at Michigan State determined Wednesday that former football coach Mel Tucker violated the school's sexual misconduct policy during his interactions with Brenda Tracy, a sexual assault prevention speaker hired by the athletic department.
Tracy filed a sexual harassment claim with the university last December, saying that Tucker made unwanted sexual advances after the two met when she was hired to speak to the football team about sexual abuse awareness and prevention. Tracy also said that Tucker masturbated without her consent while the two spoke on the phone in April 2022. She said Tucker backed out of an agreement for her to return to speak to the team in the summer of 2022, which she believes was because of how she reacted to some of his advances.
Tucker, in multiple past statements made public by his attorney, has said he believes he and Tracy were in a consensual, intimate relationship.
A spokesperson for Michigan State confirmed that a hearing officer found that Tucker was responsible for violating policy but said the investigative process was not yet complete because Tucker still has the opportunity to appeal the decision. She said because the case had not reached a full conclusion at this point, the university would not comment.
A statement released Thursday on behalf of Tucker indicated that he will appeal the decision and could potentially file a lawsuit. Tucker's statement referred to Michigan State's decision as "fraught with countless factual and legal errors" and a reflection of "the biased and completely dysfunctional administration of the school's OIE office."
Tracy did not respond to requests for comment from ESPN on Wednesday evening.
Tracy told USA Today, which first reported the hearing officer's decision, that "my first reaction was tears of relief."
Michigan State fired Tucker last month. Athletic Director Alan Haller told Tucker in a letter that the coach violated the terms of his contract by bringing "public disrespect, contempt and ridicule upon the university." Haller wrote that Tucker's interactions with Tracy, a vendor hired by the school, were grounds for termination regardless of whether he was found to have violated the school's sexual harassment policies.
Tucker had nearly $80 million remaining on his coaching contract, one of the most lucrative deals for a college football coach in the country. Haller and Michigan State fired Tucker with cause, which relieves them of any responsibility to pay out the rest of Tucker's contract.
Tucker has not yet filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against Michigan State, but his lawyers have asked the university to retain records in anticipation of potential litigation.
Michigan State held a hearing to determine whether Tucker had violated the school's sexual misconduct policy in early October. Tucker did not attend hearing, claiming that a serious medical condition kept him from making an appearance. He and his attorneys have called the university's investigation "a sham" in public statements shared last month.
According to the university's website, Tucker has 10 days to file an appeal.