Does Anyone at Michigan State Have a Spine?

Mel Tucker mess just the latest in a long string of embarrassments.
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Michigan State fumbled twice and dropped an interception against Richmond on Saturday afternoon or the final score would have been even more lopsided than 45-14. Coach-at-least-for-now Mel Tucker offered this little gem in speaking to the things the Spartans need to clean up with a Top-10 Washington team rolling into East Lansing next weekend.

"Ball security is job security."

Less than five hours later, ESPN's Dan Murphy, citing sources, revealed that Tucker is the subject of an ongoing university sexual harassment investigation. USA Today's Kenny Jacoby reports that Tucker is accused of sexually harassing rape survivor Brenda Tracy, who has made educating athletes about sexual violence her life’s work. Both pieces are truly remarkable and paint the best-case scenario of a man with impossibly poor and embarrassing judgement and the worst-case scenario of a profoundly broken university day-trading and cloaking itself in the very secrecy that's burned itself in the past.

According to her complaint, Tracy sat frozen for several minutes while Tucker made sexual comments about her and masturbated. His violation, she said, reopened 25-year-old wounds from her rape by four men – three Oregon State University football players and a high school recruit.

“The idea that someone could know me and say they understand my trauma but then re-inflict that trauma on me is so disgusting to me, it’s hard for me to even wrap my mind around it,” she told USA TODAY. “It’s like he sought me out just to betray me.”

In his statements to the Title IX investigator, Tucker acknowledged masturbating on the call but said Tracy grossly mischaracterized the episode. According to him, they had consensual “phone sex.”

“Ms. Tracy’s distortion of our mutually consensual and intimate relationship into allegations of sexual exploitation has really affected me,” Tucker wrote in a March 22 letter to the investigator. “I am not proud of my judgment and I am having difficulty forgiving myself for getting into this situation, but I did not engage in misconduct by any definition.”

Per USA Today, Michigan State hired an outside Title IX attorney to investigate the complaint and the investigation finished in July. A formal hearing investigating whether Tucker violated the institution's policy banning sexual harassment and exploitation is scheduled for Oct. 5 and 6. Whatever the ultimate truth is here, we know for a fact that MSU, for reasons that defy comprehension, allowed Tucker to coach this season knowing this would all soon become public. They allowed him to go to the podium and offer ball-security maxims and chop wood on the sidelines. They allowed him to further mold a program it now seems he won't be leading and more importantly has no business leading.

The worst part is that no Spartan should have expected anything different. Doubling-down on mistakes and refusing to learn from the past have become cottage industries on the banks of the Red Cedar. They can shuffle the flow chart and bring in new blood but it appears some traditions die hard. One would think that being forever on the wrong side of history with one of the worst sexual-abuse scandals in American history would be enough to spur on proactive action. Even the most callous and cynical would think that self-preservation would win out against short-sightedness. The backdrop of Larry Nassar is permanently woven into the fabric of Michigan State. Because no one should forget the pain inflicted then exacerbated because the school simply has not done enough to deserve to have any of that stain wiped away.

There are more eloquent ways to say this but here goes. All of this sucks. In the serious ways that harm people and in the un-seriousness realm of fandom and community pride. A profound lack of sense and responsibility from those vested with power that explodes and works outward in concentric circles until everyone associated with that logo feels it.

As of this morning Tucker remains head coach of the football team in good standing. In a sane world that will soon change. Graham Couch of the Lansing State Journal points out that Tucker has likely coached his last game for the green and white. One would certainly freaking hope so.

The outrageous contract and crippling buyout and likely prolonged legal fight over money be damned. There is one way forward and it's to stop going backward. Things cannot stay the same. It is time — actually it's well past time — for the school to start doing the right thing. To listen to the hundreds and thousands of alums desperate to have representation that reflects their values and the values Michigan State purports to have. If this is a truly a family then it's time to realize that the extended family has no choice but to give tough love and it's time to face the music. Take care of this problem and get Tucker as far away from the program as possible as quickly as possible. Do what should have been done months ago.

No more mantras or platitudes or clever slogans. No more lamentations on culture and community and establishing the run. It's time to start being adults and demanding more from those given tremendous power and financial resources.

Caring about what such a definitive move would do to the coffers and on-field product for years to come is not a luxury that exists anymore. The house MSU has constructed is on fire and has been on fire for a long time. For too long the solution has been to not to call the fire department. It's been to open up a few windows and hope the smoke doesn't overwhelm anyone. Now it's time, with the flames raging out of control, to let the thing take its course. This is a gut rehab now and we deserve a better foundation. With engineers who care about the safety of everyone who visits.

If ball security is job security, what do you do with people who constantly fumble? If it's to give them more snaps, then maybe the security is part of the problem.