Mel Tucker was accused of sexually harassing prominent activist and rape survivor Brenda Tracy on a phone call last year, and the details aren't pretty. The result has been a national scandal that led to Michigan State suspending the head football coach without pay during an ongoing investigation.
As part of Tracy's allegations, she claimed Tucker masturbated and "made sexual comments" over the phone in April 2022 while she sat frozen for several minutes, an incident she said reopened decades-old rape wounds. Tucker admitted to a Title IX investigator to masturbating on the call but said the phone sex was consensual.
In a statement he released through his lawyer on Monday, Tucker said their partnership through the school grew into a friendship that turned intimate. He also said he and his wife have been estranged for a long time at this point.
"I helped bring Ms. Tracy to campus in the summer of 2021 because I support her mission of sexual misconduct prevention. This single presentation was her only paid engagement with the University. We developed a mutual friendship that grew into an intimate, adult relationship; at this point, my wife and I had been estranged for a long time," the statement read. "Ms. Tracy and I engaged in dozens of calls throughout fall 2021 and winter 2022, many of which she initiated and which occurred late at night. We both talked about all sorts of intimate, private matters. She told me that I could trust her, and I proceeded to do just that."
Many college football fans probably weren't aware of Tucker's wife, to whom he has been married for more than 20 years. Their origin story — and how they eloped — is a wild one.
How Mel Tucker Met Jo-Ellyn
Tucker has been married to his wife, Jo-Ellyn, for decades now. As he mentioned in his statement, they have been estranged for a while.
Jo-Ellyn, who was formerly known as Jo-Ellyn Haynesworth, is a former attorney who got her law degree from Rutgers University and her undergraduate degree at the University of Illinois. They have two sons, Joseph and Christian, who are two years apart.
— Michigan State Football (@MSU_Football) February 12, 2020
Tucker wasted zero time determining Jo-Ellyn was the one for him. According to The Florida Times-Union (via The Detroit Free Press), he proposed to her on their first date, which was a blind date. Jo-Ellyn was in law school at the time and was set up by a classmate of Tucker's from Wisconsin, where he played defensive back in the '90s. Tucker began talking to her and was "smitten." So he proposed when they first met.
"She was in law school, she was nice looking," the story said. "I got to know her before we met. She never told me what I wanted to hear. I respect a person who tells you straight."
Obviously, she said yes.
The two had children and lived the busy life of a college football coach. His career spanned the country, including at LSU, Ohio State, the NFL and eventually to when he was hired as the Spartans' head coach in 2020. Jo-Ellyn was there to introduce him to fans:
Mel Tucker introduced as Michigan State?s head coach by his wife, Jo-Ellyn Tucker pic.twitter.com/ipVaARWEit
— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) February 12, 2020
It's unclear exactly from when or for how long Tucker and Jo-Ellyn have been estranged, but he said he engaged in phone calls with Tracy from the fall of 2021 through the winter of 2022.
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