Mel Tucker argues funds shared with estranged wife are vital to pursue lawsuit against Michigan State


Former Michigan State University head football coach Mel Tucker is working to keep his divorce proceedings as private as possible, while continuing to pursue a wrongful termination lawsuit against his former employer.

Tucker submitted a request to the judge overseeing the proceedings to prevent media scrutiny of his ongoing divorce, the USA Today reported. Tucker’s attorneys filed a motion for a protective order and asked the judge to seal the record of the case.

According to court documents, Tucker asked an Ingham County Circuit Court to vacate the mutual restraining order that was granted last month. Per the terms of the order, Tucker cannot spend money in their joint accounts to cover his personal legal fees. But, from Tucker’s point of view, he needs access to the funds to be able to continue paying the fees to have the chance to win the ongoing legal action.

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Head coach Mel Tucker of the Michigan State Spartans before a game against the Richmond Spiders at Spartan Stadium Sept. 9, 2023, in East Lansing, Mich. (Mike Mulholland/Getty Images)

Tucker was suspended in September after sexual harassment allegations against him were made public in a USA Today investigation. Brenda Tracy, an activist and rape survivor, said Tucker sexually harassed her during a phone call in April 2022. Several months later, Tracy filed a complaint with the school’s Title IX office.

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Tracy is known for her work with college teams educating athletes about sexual violence. Michigan State paid her $10,000 to share her story with the football team.

Tucker acknowledged having phone sex with her but said it was consensual. He signed a $95 million, 10-year contract in November 2021. The school fired Tucker for cause two weeks after he was suspended, saying his actions subjected the institution to ridicule, breaching his contract. The separation effectively canceled what was left on Tucker’s contract.

Mel Tucker coaches against Central Michigan

Head coach Mel Tucker of the Michigan State Spartans reacts after a play in the fourth quarter of a game against the Central Michigan Chippewas at Spartan Stadium Sept. 1, 2023, in East Lansing, Mich. (Mike Mulholland/Getty Images)

Jo Ellyn Tucker, Mel’s wife of 25 years, filed for divorce in April. A few weeks after filing the divorce complaint, Jo Ellyn was granted a restraining order after claiming the former college football coach spent around $1.5 million from the couple’s joint funds to cover legal bills. Jo Ellyn also stated that Mel transferred money from his retirement accounts to accounts she did not have access to.

Michigan State at Media Days

Head coach Mel Tucker of the Michigan State Spartans speaks at Big Ten football media days at Lucas Oil Stadium July 26, 2023, in Indianapolis. (Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Tucker disputed his wife’s assertions, saying she was aware of his plans to consolidate his retirement accounts. He also argued that if he wins the lawsuit against MSU, both he and Jo Ellyn would reap the rewards of a sizable financial gain.

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Tracy and her nonprofit, Set The Expectation, filed an intent to sue Tucker and MSU in March. She is accusing Tucker of harming her reputation and hurting her ability to earn money in the future and causing her psychological and emotional harm. Tracey is seeking damages in excess of $75 million.

Tucker began his coaching career with Nick Saban as a graduate assistant for the Spartans in 1997. He returned to the school with one of the biggest contracts in college sports after leading Colorado for one season and serving as an assistant coach at Georgia, Alabama and Ohio State.

Tucker also worked in the NFL, leading the Jacksonville Jaguars as interim coach during the 2011 season.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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