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With Mel Tucker officially out, what’s next for Michigan State University football?

An image of the Spartan Stadium banner above the field, with images of football players and the Spartans logo.
Myesha Johnson
/
WKAR-MSU

Michigan State University has fired former football coach Mel Tucker following allegations of sexual harassment by activist and rape survivor Brenda Tracy. Athletic Director Allan Haller sent a letter to Tucker Wednesday informing him that his actions bring “ridicule upon the university” and constitute a breach of contract.

The former football coach maintains he had a “private, consensual relationship” with Tracy.

WKAR’s Arjun Thakkar spoke with WKAR sports reporter Al Martin to discuss what Tucker's firing means for the football program.

Interview Highlights

On what comes next in the Mel Tucker investigation

Mel Tucker had around $75 million remaining on that 10-year $95-million contract. Tucker seems like he will be fighting to get that remaining money. Or, possibly we could see MSU settle for a certain amount to just make this all go away. Because the longer this is in the news, the bigger stain it is for not just the university but, of course, the MSU football program.

On players possibly entering the transfer portal

With Tucker now fired, the transfer portal is open for the next 30 days to all Michigan State football players. So if there are players on this roster as of right now, who want to enter the transfer portal and look at other options to go to a different school to play football, they can do that. Now, it's important to note this as well — if they jump in, other schools can immediately begin contacting them, even if they keep playing for the Spartans.

On whether acting head coach Harlon Barnett will get the full-time position

Harlon is a great guy, but this is just an impossible scenario he's been dealt. I think that Michigan State right now is going to start to begin the search and that's no knock against Harlon Barnett, but I think Michigan State wants to have a clean slate moving forward when it comes to this program.

Interview Transcript

Sophia Saliby: Michigan State University hasfired former football coach Mel Tucker following allegations of sexual harassment by activist and rape survivor Brenda Tracy. Athletic Director Allan Haller sent a letter to Tucker Wednesday informing him that his actions bring “ridicule upon the university” and constitute a breach of contract. The former football coach maintains he had a “private, consensual relationship” with Tracy. WKAR’s Arjun Thakkar spoke with our sports reporter Al Martin to discuss what Tucker's firing means for the football program.

Arjun Thakkar: So Al, why did Michigan State decide to fire Mel Tucker today and not earlier?

Al Martin: Yeah, Arjun, that's because today was the day right after the one-week period allowed for Tucker to respond to the university's stated intentions of firing him. So Tucker responded on Monday with a 25-page response. Now, Michigan State Athletic Director Alan Haller noted in today's statement that, quote, "Mr. Tucker's response does not provide any information that refutes or undermines the multiple grounds for termination for cause set forth in the notice." And then, Arjun, he goes on to say, "Instead, his 25-page response provides a litany of excuses for his inappropriate behavior while expressly admitting to the problematic conduct outlined in the notice." So Haller, the university, the Board of Trustees and of course, Interim President Teresa K. Woodruff, they looked at that 25-page response and basically said, 'Okay, you're giving us nothing here that would not allow us to fire you without cause.'

Thakkar: And what happens now in the Tucker investigation?

Martin: Yeah, well, now comes the hearing. Now that is scheduled to take place next week, October 5th and 6th. Tucker has noted through statements that he may not attend the hearing, and that the results of the hearing if you look the timeline here, Arjun, the results of the hearing may not be known for up to a month afterwards, as the Title IX attorney analyzes the case.

Additionally, if there are appeals that could extend the process into January. Now, this is important to note, that Mel Tucker had around $75 million remaining on that 10-year $95-million contract. Tucker seems like he will be fighting to get that remaining money. Or, possibly we could see MSU settle for a certain amount to just make this all go away. Because the longer this is in the news, the bigger stain it is for not just the university but, of course, the MSU football program.

Thakkar: Right, and what does this mean for the MSU football program? Where do they go from here?

Martin: Yeah, that's a great question. With Tucker now fired, the transfer portal is open for the next 30 days to all Michigan State football players. So if there are players on this roster as of right now, who want to enter the transfer portal and look at other options to go to a different school to play football, they can do that.

Now, it's important to note this as well — if they jump in, other schools can immediately begin contacting them, even if they keep playing for the Spartans. Now, the portal will be open to them again, let's say there are players who say, 'You know what, I want to ride this out.' Well, they'll have another opportunity, again for 45 days at the end of the season, as it will for every player in college football. So unless they're they are really sure that they want to leave. There's no point in hopping into the transfer portal now, but we're talking about 18, 19, 20-year-olds, you never know, right?

And I have to say this as well — there's another pressing matter for players who aren't sure whether or not MSU is in their future, or if they want this season to count against their eligibility. The decision whether or not to stop playing after four games is pressing for some of these players because if they do, they could preserve a redshirt year. So there are 27 scholarship players at MSU that still have a redshirt available. 10 of them have played four games already this season. So what that means, Arjun, is that if they play a single down this weekend at Iowa, that year goes poof, and this year counts towards their eligibility. So there are players on this roster that have a very important decision to make this weekend.

Thakkar: Harlon Barnett is currently acting head coach, he's going to be interim head coach. Do you think that he'll eventually get the full time job?

Martin: If I'm being totally honest, Arjun, I don't think so. I think that Harlon Barnett has been dealt an incredibly difficult deck of cards here. If you look at how the season has gone, especially these last two weeks, homecoming against Maryland. At halftime against against Maryland, I think this really says it all, things got so bad when it came to the performance of this team on the field, that Harlon actually asked the team whether or not there were players who wanted to continue playing for the program.

Harlon is a great guy, but this is just an impossible scenario he's been dealt. I think that Michigan State right now is going to start to begin the search, and that's no knock against Harlon Barnett, but I think Michigan State wants to have a clean slate moving forward when it comes to this program.

Thakkar: Al Martin is WKAR's sports reporter. Thanks for your time.

Martin: Thank you, Arjun.

Al Martin is the host of Current Sports, the daily radio call-in program from WKAR NewsTalk. Al is also on the WKAR News team as a regular sports contributor and plays a key sports reporting and content role on all other WKAR media platforms.
Arjun Thakkar is WKAR's politics and civics reporter.
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