Spartan fans gather for first home game without Mel Tucker
EAST LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Michigan State University Spartans faced off with the Washington Huskies Saturday, in their first home game following the suspension of head football coach Mel Tucker.
As fans gathered for tailgating across campus, the excitement building just hours before kickoff, some couldn’t help but think about Tucker’s suspension, and the controversy that’s followed in the days since.
“I mean, Tucker was kind of a shadow, this week anyway,” said decades-long Spartan fan Matt Hodges.
Tucker was suspended on Sunday, Sep. 10 after being accused of sexually harassing rape survivor Brenda Tracy over the phone. Interim coach Harlon Barnett has taken over for the time being, with former head coach Mark Dantonio also helping to lead the team.
“Everything that’s happened these past couple of weeks has been unfortunate,” said MSU grad Trace Reincke. “But I’m just glad coach D is back and we’re heading in a new direction.”
In the days leading up to Saturday’s game, Barnett made the decision to return to the traditional “Spartan Walk,” a 15-minute trek for the players, starting at Kellogg Center and ending at Spartan Stadium, passing the Sparty Statue on the way. Tucker made an amendment to the tradition after taking over, opting to bus the team from Kellogg to Sparty, where they then began to walk.
Despite the onslaught of change, other dedicated fans like Hodges are keeping a positive attitude, hoping the continued success of their team will put things back on track.
“I mean new coach on the sideline, I feel like our team is hungry,” said MSU student Aidan Dempsey. “So I’m excited for it.”
Alongside Dempsey is friend Jack Neeson, who said he’s feeling optimistic about the Spartans’ future without Tucker.
“What I’ve got to say about the Mel Tucker thing. The team is fired up,” he said. “They’re so out on him, so I think they’re fired up under the new coaches, and I think the Spartans get the win tonight.”
In response to the alleged harassment, students on campus are making their support for alleged victim Brenda Tracy known, giving their campus landmark — called The Rock — a fresh coat of paint. It now reads, “We believe survivors.”
When it comes to the future of their team, fans said they’ll remain Spartan Strong, no matter what comes their way.
“Change can be scary, but at the end of the day, I think it can bring some really good energy back,” said MSU student Gabby Sabo.
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