Michigan State Football Is Doomed Amidst Mel Tucker Allegations
The Michigan State Spartans football program is in a terrible spot for the future of the program. News of sexual harassment allegations against head coach Mel Tucker resulted in the state's highest-paid public employee being suspended without pay as an investigation gets underway.
Allegedly, Tucker made sexual comments and masturbated while on a phone call with Brenda Tracy, an activist and rape survivor who speaks to teams and athletes about preventing sexual violence, including the Spartans football program. The phone call, according to USA Today, happened in April 2022 and Tracy filed a complaint with the school's Title IX department in December. Tucker defends that the two had consensual "phone sex."
The Spartans athletic program still wears the scars of the Larry Nassar scandal. Nassar was accused of sexually assaulting hundreds of women for which he is serving a 40 to 175-year prison sentence. Understandably, this isn't the type of thing the university, nor its supporters and alumni, wish to relive in any capacity. Yet, here we are.
The athletic forum certainly takes a backseat to the serious, real-life situation befalling Tracy and Tucker. This article is in no way intended to make light of the situation by analyzing the future of the program. Remarking on the off-field situation isn't my place, remarking on the on-field situation is.
With that said, the future of the football program is in serious danger of plummeting to a space that may not be salvageable.
If Tucker is guilty of these allegations in any manner, he will be fired. University President Teresa K. Woodruff and athletic director Alan Haller don't have to say as much. It's expected. If Tucker is fired for cause, he won't receive a buyout or any further compensation from MSU.
That's about the only silver lining for the future of the Spartans.
The product on the field, short of Kenneth Walker III's Heisman Trophy campaign and an upset victory over Michigan in 2021, nothing has trended in a positive direction for Michigan State during Tucker's short tenure. Heading into the 2023 season, expectations were low and now the Spartans will host a top-10 team next Saturday with this cloud looming over its head.
That team is the No. 8 Washington Huskies, one of four PAC-12 programs that will join the Big 10 Conference in 2024, and a prime reason why Michigan State could find itself in the basement of one of college football's most premiere conferences for an uncomfortably long time.
With Washington, Oregon, USC and UCLA joining the conference, an already downward-trending Michigan State football program was already in a difficult position. The team lost 21 players to the transfer portal during the offseason, while adding 18. The Spartans' 2023 recruiting class was 24th in the nation, 22nd in 2022. placing the recruiting classes for each season at 4th in the Big Ten. However, the gap between the number three team, Michigan, and the Spartans was considerable in terms of composite rankings for each class.
USC and Oregon are recruiting powerhouses, while Washington and UCLA can be competitive. These teams, should they adapt to the hurdles that come with joining a cross-country conference, are in a position to come into the league head and shoulders above the Spartans on the gridiron. With scandals like these, even if Tucker is out of the picture, recruiting only gets more difficult.
In terms of roster-building, the transfer portal becomes an even bigger enemy to the Spartans. There's little reason to believe players won't put their names in the hat to join a cleaner environment and a potentially better team in one go. Conversely, bringing in transfer players becomes just as difficult as recruiting high school prospects.
While the NCAA hasn't been as swift to drop hammers on programs once the problematic individuals have been dealt with in recent years, it's not likely that the Michigan State football program will come out of this situation on the other side unscathed by the NCAA.
If Tucker's time is at an end in East Lansing, the next hire will have his work cut out for him. Is there enough draw to lure in a big name should one become available? It doesn't feel likely, but the willingness to pay Tucker such a fat contract is certainly a factor that can't be overlooked. Hopefully, the receiving side of another such contract doesn't perpetuate the drama the university is currently facing any further and proves this article wrong. A few candidates are listed below.
In the meantime, Spartans fans are in for a struggle they don't deserve to experience.