Michigan St AD retires; Dantonio defends himself


By DAVID EGGERT and LARRY LAGE - Associated Press



Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis announces his retirement Friday, Jan. 26, 2018 in East Lansing, Mich. Hollis is the second university official to step down in as many days amid sharp criticism over the school’s handling of sexual abuse allegations against disgraced sports doctor Larry Nassar. (Jake May/The Flint Journal-MLive.com via AP)


EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan State University’s athletic director retired two days after the university president resigned over the school’s handling of sexual abuse allegations against its disgraced former sports doctor, Larry Nassar.

Mark Hollis, who had been in the job for 10 years, disclosed the move during a meeting with a small group of reporters on campus. He was asked why he would not stay on.

“Because I care,” Hollis said, holding back tears. “When you look at the scope of everything, that’s the reason I made a choice to retire now. And I hope that has a little bit, a little bit, of helping that healing process.”

Hours later, the university named its vice president to serve as acting president after the departure of President Lou Anna Simon. Bill Beekman is expected to serve briefly in the role until the board of trustees can hire an interim president and then a permanent leader.

Also, USA Gymnastics confirmed that its entire board of directors would resign as requested by the U.S. Olympic Committee. The USOC had threatened to decertify the organization, which besides picking U.S. national teams is the umbrella organization for hundreds of clubs across the country.

Some of the nation’s top gymnasts, including Olympians Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney, Simone Biles and Jordyn Wieber, said they were among Nassar’s victims.

At the university board’s meeting, Chairman Brian Breslin said it was “clear that MSU has not been focused enough on the victims.” The trustees, he said, want to resume discussions with those who have sued the school to “reach a fair and just conclusion.” Talks broke down last year.

The board plans to ask an independent third party to review health and safety at the school, and it wants state Attorney General Bill Schuette to consider appointing a neutral investigator to conduct an inquiry of the Nassar matter “to promote bipartisan acceptance of the results.” Schuette, who is running for governor, will further detail his probe in a news conference Saturday.

Trustee Brian Mosallam addressed his remarks toward the victims: “I am so truly sorry. We failed you.”

Beekman is vice president and secretary of the board. He began working at the university in 1995 and previously led the MSU Alumni Association. He has an undergraduate degree from MSU.

“I think our culture here at Michigan State clearly needs to improve,” he said. “We need to be able to make everybody that comes on our campus feel safe.”

Simon submitted her resignation Wednesday after Nassar, a former Michigan State employee, was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison for molesting young girls and women under the guise of medical treatment.

Several of the 150-plus victims who spoke at his sentencing hearing were former athletes at the school, and many victims accused the university of mishandling past complaints about Nassar.

“I don’t believe that I’ve ever met him,” Hollis said of Nassar. He insisted he did not know about complaints of abuse until an Indianapolis Star report in 2016.

Gov. Rick Snyder said he is mulling an inquiry into the university, depending on whether it would interfere with other investigations such as the attorney general’s. Under the state constitution, the governor can remove or suspend public officers for “gross neglect of duty,” corruption or “other misfeasance or malfeasance.”

“The governor hasn’t seen enough done for the survivors after everything they’ve gone through,” spokeswoman Anna Heaton said. “He wants to make sure that something is being done.”

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos confirmed that her agency is also investigating the Nassar scandal. She said in a statement that what happened at the school is “abhorrent” and “cannot happen ever again — there or anywhere.”

The Education Department was already reviewing separate complaints about the school’s compliance with Title IX, the law that requires public schools to offer equal opportunities to both genders, and compliance with requirements about providing campus crime and security information.

The board expressed support for Simon before her resignation, but she faced pressure from many students, faculty and legislators. While there has been no evidence that Simon or Hollis knew of Nassar’s sexual abuse, some of the women and girls who accused him said they complained to university employees as far back as the late 1990s.

Board members, who are elected in statewide votes, have also come under intense scrutiny. Two announced they will not seek re-election. Another, Joel Ferguson, apologized at the meeting for conducting an interview in which he said there was more going on at Michigan State than “this Nassar thing.”

The university faces lawsuits from more than 130 victims. Ferguson previously had said victims were ambulance chasers seeking a payday. The school resisted calls for an independent investigation before asking Schuette for a review a week ago.

Dozens of Michigan State students gathered Friday evening on campus to protest the school’s handling of the Nassar allegations. Some were expected to march to the Breslin Center where the men’s basketball team was hosting Wisconsin Friday night.

Organizers called for students attending the game to wear teal-colored T-shirts in the “Izzone,” a vocal student cheering section named after head basketball coach Tom Izzo.

In a recent filing, Michigan State asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuits on technical grounds. The school says it has immunity under state law and that the majority of victims were not MSU students at the time of the alleged assaults.

“These arguments can seem disrespectful” to victims, but a defense is required by Michigan State’s insurers, Simon wrote last week in a campus-wide email. She added, “We have the utmost respect and sympathy” for victims.

The board last month authorized the creation of a $10 million fund to offer victims counseling and mental health services.

A Title IX probe conducted by the university cleared Nassar of sexual assault allegations in 2014. He was advised by the school to avoid being alone with patients while treating their “sensitive areas,” but the school did not follow up on and enforce its request.

At least 12 reported assaults occurred after the investigation ended, according to a university police report that was provided to the FBI for review by the U.S. attorney.

Hollis said he did not know about the 2014 investigation and has told as much to the FBI and campus police.

Former Michigan State rower Cate Hannum, who was treated by Nassar and wrote an open letter criticizing Simon’s handling of the case almost a year ago, said Hollis would not be retiring if he had “approached the situation with integrity from the very beginning instead of adopting a not-my-problem attitude.”

Now it doesn’t matter what Hollis did for MSU athletics, she said, “because he will be remembered for egregiously failing his female athletes.”

Hannum reached out to Nike about the apparel company’s partnership with Michigan State. Nike replied with a letter and a phone call to Hannum, who said she’s pleased with the response.

“We stand in support of athletes and we’ve expressed our deep concerns with Michigan State University,” the letter said. “We are following the details of the rapidly developing events at the university and evolving actions by the Board of Trustees.”

A message seeking comment was left with Nike earlier by The Associated Press.

Before the Spartans basketball game, football coach Mark Dantonio briefly addressed reporters in response to an ESPN report detailing various allegations involving Michigan State football and basketball players.

“I’m here tonight to say that any accusations of my handling of any complaints of sexual assault individually are completely false,” Dantonio said. “Every incident reported in that article was documented by either police or the Michigan State Title IX office. I’ve always worked with the proper authorities when dealing with the cases of sexual assault.”

The fallout also includes former Michigan State basketball player Travis Walton, put on administrative leave by the Los Angeles Clippers, who employ him as an assistant coach with their G League team. Walton had assault and battery charges dismissed and was named in a sexual assault report in 2010, according to ESPN, citing a police report and university document. Hollis said he would conduct his own investigation about sexual assault allegations against Walton, a former Michigan State sexual assault counselor told ESPN.

USA Gymnastics board of directors to resign under pressure

By AP

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The remaining members of the USA Gymnastics board of directors will resign under pressure from the United States Olympic Committee after the USOC threatened to decertify the organization if it didn’t take more strident steps toward change amid the fallout from the scandal surrounding former team doctor Larry Nassar.

The executive board, including chairman Paul Parilla, resigned. USA Gymnastics announced that the remaining 18 board members, who are unpaid volunteers representing various threads of the sport across the country, will leave their positions. The announcement came two days after an open letter from USOC chief operating officer Scott Blackmun called for a “full turnover of leadership.”

USA Gymnastics said in a statement it will comply with the USOC’s wishes.

“USA Gymnastics supports the United States Olympic Committee’s letter and accepts the absolute need of the Olympic family to promote a safe environment for all of our athletes,” the organization wrote in a statement. “We agree with the USOC’s statement that the interests of our athletes and clubs, and their sport, may be better served by moving forward with meaningful change within our organization, rather than decertification.”

One of the crown jewels of the U.S. Olympic movement is reeling following Nassar’s downfall. The longtime team doctor, who spent more than 20 years with the organization before leaving in 2015, was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison Wednesday for molesting seven women. Part of the sentencing process included over 100 victim’s impact statements read into the record, several of them high-profile Olympians like six-time medalist Aly Raisman, 2011 world champion and 2012 Olympic gold medalist Jordyn Wieber and two-time Olympic medalist McKayla Maroney.

The sentencing hearing that allowed the young women to give a face and a voice to their abuse to millions of television viewers did what nearly 18 months of lawsuits and admissions by some of the most high-profile gymnasts in the country could not: move the needle enough to spur significant action.

USA Gymnastics did force out former president Steve Penny last spring and hired Kerry Perry in November as his replacement. The rest of the power structure, however, remained intact. Rachael Denhollander, the first person to come forward as Nassar victim in the fall of 2016, asked the board’s executive officers to resign last August. Raisman talked repeatedly about the need for a complete organizational overhaul after outlining the abuse Nassar subjected her to in her book released in November. Olympic champion Simone Biles came forward as Nassar victim on Jan. 15 and wondered why she had to continue to train at the Karolyi Ranch in Texas, a place where she said Nassar abused her earlier in her career.

USA Gymnastics announced shortly after Biles’ critique it was ending its long relationship with the Karolyi Ranch. The board’s executive officers stepped down and the rest of the group will now follow suit.

“USA Gymnastics supports an independent investigation that may shine light on how abuse of the proportion described so courageously by the survivors of Larry Nassar could have gone undetected for so long and embraces any necessary and appropriate changes,” the organization wrote. “USA Gymnastics and the USOC have the same goal — making the sport of gymnastics, and others, as safe as possible for athletes to follow their dreams in a safe, positive and empowered environment.”

Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis announces his retirement Friday, Jan. 26, 2018 in East Lansing, Mich. Hollis is the second university official to step down in as many days amid sharp criticism over the school’s handling of sexual abuse allegations against disgraced sports doctor Larry Nassar. (Jake May/The Flint Journal-MLive.com via AP)
http://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/02/web1_119732637-0c6c091beb62439197cd3e5da4a391e6.jpgMichigan State athletic director Mark Hollis announces his retirement Friday, Jan. 26, 2018 in East Lansing, Mich. Hollis is the second university official to step down in as many days amid sharp criticism over the school’s handling of sexual abuse allegations against disgraced sports doctor Larry Nassar. (Jake May/The Flint Journal-MLive.com via AP)

By DAVID EGGERT and LARRY LAGE

Associated Press

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