June 16, 2024

The attorneys for suspended Michigan State football coach Mel Tucker responded Monday to the school’s written letter last week that it intends to fire him for cause, claiming the university adopted the allegations against Tucker “without any meaningful review of the facts.”

In the latest of a tense back-and-forth between Tucker and the university, his lawyers laid out a case in a 25-page document that includes point-by-point reasons the school shouldn’t be allowed to fire him for cause.

The letter on Monday from Foley & Lardner LLP — titled “Response to Term Notice” — comes in the wake of the letter from MSU athletic director Alan Haller last week in which Haller states that the school intends to fire Tucker on Tuesday unless reasons are presented why it shouldn’t.

“[Tucker] did not engage in unprofessional or unethical behavior or ‘moral turpitude’ by any stretch of the imagination,” the letter from Tucker’s lawyers on Monday states. “In fact, as discussed below, under Michigan law, assault and battery does not even constitute ‘moral turpitude,’ and the flimsy foundation of the university’s finding — a private relationship involving mutual flirting and one instance of consensual phone sex — falls far short of the mark.”

Michigan State is in the process of attempting to fire Tucker for cause in the wake of a sexual misconduct complaint brought by Brenda Tracy, a sexual assault awareness speaker. The university opened a sexual misconduct investigation against Tucker in December 2022. The case to decide whether he violated university policy is scheduled to go to a hearing in the first week of October.

Tracy has disputed the notion that the phone sex referenced in the complaint was consensual.

By attempting to fire Tucker for cause, Michigan State is aiming to avoid paying him the $79 million remaining on his contract. In keeping with the pointed tone that’s been woven through Tucker’s responses on the matter, his attorneys argue strongly that he should not be fired for cause.

The letter on Monday states that Tucker didn’t breach his contract, questions the validity of the school’s investigation into the complaint against Tucker and criticizes the school’s inability to maintain confidentiality.

Tracy shared her complaint publicly in a story published by USA Today earlier this month. She and her lawyer said they were compelled to share their version of events after they received word that someone else at the university had leaked her name to a reporter. The university has hired the Jones Day law firm to investigate the alleged leak.

Tucker and his lawyers claim the school’s investigation into Tracy’s sexual harassment claims against him has been “terribly flawed, unfair, biased, and devoid of due process.”

“Tucker is just the fall guy for the university’s negligence and misfeasance, the long history of which includes and predates the [Larry] Nassar matter, but which unfortunately has continued and tainted the university’s handling of this matter,” the letter states.

The letter from Tucker’s lawyers also questions why the university decided to fire the coach for cause soon after he had asked for medical leave. The letter states that the attorneys “reserve all rights to supplement this response when he is medically cleared to assist us in fully responding to the Notice.”

The actual letter from the attorneys is 12 pages, and it concludes by stating that the university lacks cause to terminate Tucker’s contract.

“By doing so, it is in breach of the agreement,” the letter states. “The above reasons are more than sufficient to refute the grounds for early termination set forth in the notice. We sincerely hope the university will take them seriously, if not because it cares about Tucker’s rights, then because it cares about the limitless liability it will face over the private lives of its thousands of employees and faculty.”

The letter is addressed to Haller and carries a pointed tone throughout: “If the university investigated your private life or that of any other employee, it would certainly find something ’embarrassing’ to presumably justify your or their termination.”

Tucker released a statement last week in the wake of the school informing him that it intends to fire him for cause. He called the intention to fire him a “miscarriage of justice,” claimed a “bias” against him and hinted at a potential lawsuit by saying he looked forward to potential “discovery.”

Michigan State’s termination letter from Haller stated that the school has “amassed a body of undisputed evidence of misconduct that warrants termination” tied to the complaint filed by Tracy in December 2022.

In Haller’s letter last week, he stated that the letter “qualifies as ‘written notice, specifying the grounds for termination’ under the Early Termination Provision” in Tucker’s contract. The letter states that the university is providing Tucker with seven days to “present reasons to the Athletic Director and the University’s President as to why (you) should not be terminated,” quoting Tucker’s contract.

Before being suspended without pay earlier this month, Tucker had led Michigan State to a 2-0 record. He’s 20-14 through four seasons, and Michigan State has been beaten by a combined score of 72-16 under interim coach Harlon Barnett since Tucker’s suspension.

Overall as a head coach at Colorado and MSU, Tucker’s career record is 25-21.

ESPN’s Dan Murphy contributed to this report.

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