The Army of Survivors Demands Accountability Amidst Disturbing Allegations Against Michigan State University’s Head Football Coach

MICHIGAN (September 12, 2023) – In response to the disturbing allegations of sexual misconduct against Mel Tucker, the head football coach at Michigan State University (MSU), The Army of Survivors (TAOS), is urgently calling for decisive and enduring actions to address this matter. Mel Tucker stands accused of engaging in non-consensual phone sex with Brenda Tracy, a university contractor and advocate for survivors of sexual assault, on April 28, 2022. We are deeply troubled by the unfolding situation and dismayed by the investigative processes employed by Michigan State University, which perpetuates a culture of inaction and demonstrates a continuing failure to take sexual abuse seriously.

This case serves as a stark reminder of the internal investigations that preceded the criminal trial of the now-defamed and imprisoned former MSU sports physician, Larry Nassar, a trial marked by systemic inaction. It underscores the pressing need for comprehensive reform within the MSU athletics department and the entire university community. The urgency of this need is glaringly evident in MSU’s response to Mel Tucker’s alleged misconduct; this includes the considerable delay between the initial complaint in December and Mel Tucker’s suspension, the decision to appoint Rebecca Veidlinger, an attorney with prior ties to MSU, for the investigation rather than an impartial party, and the puzzling statement from the MSU interim president, Teresa Woodruff, claiming that “the MSU of today is creating a culture that is welcoming, supportive, and caring.” This statement starkly contradicts the recent actions of the MSU Board of Trustees, who rejected an open vote on releasing nearly 6,000 investigative documents related to the Nassar case.

Taken together, MSU’s actions in response to this sexual misconduct allegation suggest a prioritization of financial interests and athletic achievements over the well-being of the affected individuals. This pattern of institutional betrayal by MSU is all too familiar and cause for significant concern. There is both a failure in their processes under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. There must be a complete review of both spheres, within education and within employment. With these concerns in mind, we call on MSU to publicly commit to overhauling its investigative policies and procedures for addressing abuse and harassment complaints. We also implore MSU to adopt trauma-informed practices and meaningful, widespread protocol improvement around harassment and abuse, with the goal of transforming into a university that displays institutional courage through the implementation of comprehensive safeguards for athletes and anyone involved in its athletics departments.

About The Army of Survivors
The Army of Survivors is a global leader in advocating for survivors of sexual assault in sport. The nonprofit organization was founded in 2018 by more than 40 survivors of sexual violence  that was enabled by USA Gymnastics, Michigan State University, the U.S. Olympic Committee, and the FBI. This unique history allows TAOS to bring awareness to the systemic problem of sexual abuse of athletes from the lens of athlete survivors, and everything continues to be done with athlete survivors at the center of the work. The goal is to end sexual violence in sports by ensuring all perpetrators, those who collude with perpetrators, and those who fail to act are held accountable; creating transparency in reporting; building an environment where athletes do not fear retaliation when reporting abuse; and advocating for meaningful change that supports athlete survivors.

TAOS’ mission is to bring awareness, accountability, and transparency to sexual abuse against athletes at all levels from elite to non-elite since the culture of sports that tacitly supports sexual abuse against athletes does not discriminate based on an athlete’s ability. Our work is athlete survivor-founded, survivor-led and trauma-informed and we carry out our work through three pillars that support TAOS’ mission: education, resources, and advocacy.