Sep 30, 2022 - News

FOIA Friday: Lawsuit involving Mel Tucker's contract heats up

Michigan State football coach Mel Tucker

Michigan State football coach Mel Tucker. Photo: Mike Mulholland/Getty Images

The closely guarded funding sources of Michigan State football coach Mel Tucker's $95 million contract will be discussed in court Oct. 25 as part of a public records lawsuit.

Catch up quick: Tucker's contract is funded with gifts from Mat Ishbia, a member of the 2000 national championship basketball team and president and chief executive of United Wholesale Mortgage, and Steve St. Andre, chief executive of Shift Digital.

  • MSU says these agreements are exempt from the state's Freedom of Information Act because they are intertwined with personal, private and confidential financial and estate planning information.

Why it matters: The Detroit Free Press — which recently sued the university to obtain gift agreements tied to the coach's contract — says it wants to know if MSU made any promises or concessions to secure the private funding.

Threat level: While MSU's rocky start this season has escalated criticism that Tucker is overpaid, it's important to remember the Free Press initially filed its FOIA request in December 2021.

  • "If he underperforms, do (the boosters) have a say in his termination?" Free Press attorney Herschel Fink wrote in an August court filing.

The intrigue: In August, state Judge Brock Swartzle gave MSU 14 days to hand over the documents so he could review them in private.

  • Lawyers on both sides have traded barbs, with MSU's attorney accusing the newspaper in court documents of "attempting to generate online clickbait."

The other side: "The Free Press is proud of its record of using 'sunshine' laws, such as the Freedom of Information Act, to inform its readers, the public and taxpayers about matters of importance to them," Fink wrote in court documents. "No, it’s not called 'click-bait.' It’s called public service, and what good newspapers do."


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