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Whitlock: No one will learn anything from Mel Tucker’s mistake
David Madison / Contributor, Mike Mulholland / Stringer, jutawat Rawichot | Getty Images

Whitlock: No one will learn anything from Mel Tucker’s mistake

There are no good guys or girls in the Mel Tucker saga. None.

The rise and fall of the Michigan State football coach is a story about the complicated and disingenuous relationships between brand-builders, influencers, billionaires, and institutions.

It’s a cautionary tale about the social media matrix that will mostly be ignored.

Over the weekend, Michigan State University suspended its fourth-year head coach without pay pending the conclusion of a Title IX sexual harassment investigation. Most people expect Tucker to be fired shortly. The investigation is mere formality.

Tucker, according to a USA Today story, acted improperly toward Brenda Tracy, a sexual violence prevention expert he and the school had previously employed to counsel MSU football players. The most serious and embarrassing allegation leveled at Tucker is that he engaged in non-consensual phone sex with Tracy. Tucker admitted to investigators that he masturbated while talking to Tracy on the phone. He claims it was the result of mutual flirting.

According to reports, Tucker and Tracy had become friends. They frequently chatted on the phone for as long as 30 minutes. Tucker, who is married, acknowledged being romantically interested in Tracy. He says Tracy was looking for a “sugar daddy” relationship with him. In 2021, Tracy enthusiastically endorsed Tucker as one of the good guys, tweeting: “There is a small group of football coaches that I believe not only care about issues of sexual and domestic violence, but truly want to do the work to make a difference. Mel Tucker is one of those coaches.”

So what happened? How did flirty friends become mortal enemies? Why would a coach with a $95 million contract jeopardize his future in such a foolish manner?

Everyone involved in this story is a fraud. Tucker. Tracy. Michigan State. The billionaire boosters – Mat Ishbia and Steve St. Andre – who bankrolled Tucker’s payday. The media.

Let’s start with Brenda Tracy. She gallivants around the country pretending to offer unique advice to young men on how to avoid sexual misconduct. She’s really just a traveling photo op for coaches seeking to immunize themselves from being accused of harboring a culture of rape. She’s #MeToo insurance. Like a good neighbor, Brenda Tracy is there for guilt-ridden coaches who want to masquerade as allies to feminists.

Tracy accepts speaking engagements, honorary captain status, and a hefty fee in exchange for pictures and social media plugs. She builds brands — her own and whatever slimy coach or university is willing to pay. She’s no different from and just as useless as the diversity, equity, and inclusion executives universities employ as racism insurance.

When confronted with Tucker’s misconduct, Brenda Tracy couldn’t find the strength or wisdom to hang up the phone on a married man pleasuring himself a thousand miles away. But for $10,000, she’ll lecture a football team on how to behave with the opposite sex. It’s a great scam.

Tracy is a classic fraudulent feminist. She’s equal to men until the very moment that being inferior and weak benefits her. She set a trap for Mel Tucker. She tolerated his flirting and immorality as long as it financially benefited her.

Let me be clear: Mel Tucker is no victim. Not even close. At 51 years old, Tucker is the biggest fraud in this whole story. His coaching resume couldn’t be any more suspect. He had the good fortune of serving as a graduate assistant for Nick Saban at Michigan State in the late 1990s. The Saban brand opened doors for Tucker throughout football. He bounced from better job to better job, never staying anywhere longer than four years, never accomplishing all that much beyond providing a franchise or university with a whiff of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

In 2019, he landed a head coaching job at Colorado. He won five games and lost seven. He turned that single season of mediocrity into a $33 million payday at Michigan State, more than doubling his salary. Two years later, after an 11-2 season and riding the wave of Black Lives Matter, he tripled his income.

MSU showered Tucker with a 10-year deal worth $95 million. Two boosters – Ishbia and St. Andre – footed the bill. MSU wanted to make a statement about its investment in black coaches, and Ishbia and St. Andre wanted to make a statement about themselves.

Out of fear of being labeled racist, the media was reluctant to question the sanity of the investment. With a career record of 16-14 at the time, Tucker became one of the highest-paid football coaches in history. Five months later, in April 2022, Tucker was in a hotel room late at night pleasuring himself while Tracy listened. Seven months after that, the Spartans wrapped up a 5-7 season that proved MSU and Tucker were in over their heads.

And here we are today with Michigan State using Tracy to worm its way out of paying Tucker $95 million.

Don’t feel sorry for anyone involved. They all deserve this. They’re all users looking for shortcuts to reputation enhancement.

In the aftermath of the Dr. Larry Nassar child molestation atrocity, Michigan State wanted to use Tucker and Tracy to fix the school’s national reputation. MSU employed Nassar for 18 years and overlooked years of complaints about his predatory behavior with female athletes.

Tucker used the Black Lives Matter movement to score a huge payday. Tracy used the #MeToo movement to build a career. Ishbia used Tucker to paint himself as the perfect person to buy an NBA franchise.

Image is everything in the fraudulent, social media-driven world we’ve constructed. This cycle gets rinsed, repeated, and rewarded. No one learns anything.

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