We need to talk about this Mel Tucker/Brenda Tracy situation.
But maybe not in the way you’d expect.
For those who don’t know, Brenda Tracy, founder of Set The Expectation, a nonprofit dedicated to ending sexual and interpersonal violence through prevention work, accused Michigan State Head Coach Mel Tucker of repeatedly refusing to acknowledge their eight month professional relationship should not progress into a romantic one, as well as sexually harassing her on a phone call in April 2022.
She also accuses him of canceling a July 2022 speaking engagement in retaliation for Brenda rebuffing his advances.
For Mel Tucker’s part, he says the relationship had mutually progressed beyond professional, that his actions on the April 2022 phone call were consensual, and that his personal feelings about her had nothing to do with his decision to postpone, not cancel, her summer 2022 training in East Lansing.
He essentially accuses Brenda Tracy of wanting to extort him for financial gain in order to drop the Title IX complaint she made to Michigan State in December 2022.
I’m not going to get into who should be believed here. Accusations deserve investigation. Trust enough to make an earnest attempt to verify.
But what happens when the people you have to trust in order to sort out the details of a serious matter have their own ulterior motives and no regard for your welfare?
Because that’s what seems to be the case in Michigan State’s internal investigation of this matter.
Brenda Tracy and Mel Tucker are on opposing sides of a very serious issue, but the one place they might have common ground is their grievance with the investigative process.
This investigation is now tainted and playing out in the court of public opinion because someone leaked Brenda Tracy’s name to USA Today ahead of the October hearings.
The person Branda Tracy had shared investigative documentation with, USA Today reporter Kenny Jacoby, confirmed that he had access to the documentation of the case since June 2023, and has known Brenda Tracy for six years.
But the condition of USA Today having exclusive access to the documentation of the case was that none of it was to be used until the completion of the investigation.
And the longer the hearing was delayed, the bigger the risk that Tracy’s name came out in the media. The hearings were initially set for late August, but Tucker and his attorney delayed the proceedings until October 5th.
Over the last two months, the whispers of the story coming out grew louder, and an MSU Title IX coordinator even emailed Brenda Tracy’s attorney back in late August to warn them that media outlets were investigating the matter and might be ready to publish a story.
When USA Today contacted Brenda Tracy last week to tell her that her name had been brought up, she greenlit the story. And you might be saying to yourself, “Well then this whole thing getting out before October is Brenda Tracy trying to gain an advantage.”
But what you’re not considering is that this story getting out before there’s an investigative conclusion means that Brenda Tracy’s organization is essentially toast. College coaches are not going to bring Set The Expectation onto their campus if there’s even a one percent chance that they feel Tracy isn’t a consummate professional.
The contextless details about long phone calls and the formation of a deeply personal relationship with a married coach, regardless of the claim Mel Tucker pushed the relationship into sexual territory after being asked not to, give enough reasonable doubt to any athletic administration to seek guidance and training on sexual violence and consent from literally anyone but Brenda Tracy.
This information being out there does not help Brenda Tracy at all.
And it damn sure doesn’t help Mel Tucker. I’m not sure he can be helped, but if the only people aware that this investigation had concluded, and was awaiting a hearing, were out here spilling secrets- how on earth is it even possible for Mel Tucker to have a fair adjudication of his counterclaims?
The answer? It isn’t. And maybe that’s the point.
The leaker definitely has no regard for Brenda Tracy’s well-being, and the entire thing seems to be an attempt to hurt Tucker’s chances of surviving this scandal and being able to earn the massive contract that Spartan boosters gave him.
This case is complicated and messy enough without the ulterior motives of a third party being driven by a desire for success on the football field.
Let that sink in.