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Michigan State athletic director retires over Nassar sex abuse scandal

  • 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) Jake May | MLive.com

  • Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis tearfully 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) Jake May | MLive.com

  • Bill Beekman, who serves as secretary to the Michigan State University Board of Trustees, speaks to reporters after a board meeting on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018, at the Hannah Administration Building on the MSU campus in East Lansing, Mich. Beekman will temporarily take the place of former President Lou Anna K. Simon. Simon submitted her resignation Wednesday after Larry 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. (Nick King /Lansing State Journal via AP) Nick King

  • FILE - This Sept. 12, 2015, file photo, shows Michigan State athletics director Mark Hollis, at left. This Nov. 9, 2012 file photo, shows Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon, at right. Hollis announced his retirement Friday, Jan. 26,m 2018, 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. Michigan State President Lou Anna Simon submitted her resignation late Wednesday, Jan. 24, hours after Nassar, a former employee at Michigan State, was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison for molesting young girls and women under the guise of medical treatment. (AP Photo/Al Goldis, left, Carlos Osorio, right, File) Ben Liebenberg

  • This Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018 photo shows The Rock on Michigan State University's campus which was painted "Thank You" and and includes the names of the women who gave victim impact statements during the Larry Nassar sentencing hearing in East Lansing, Mich. Nassar is on his way to prison for the rest of his life for molesting scores of young female athletes, but the scandal is far from over at Michigan State University as victims, lawmakers and a judge demand to know why he wasn't stopped years ago. (Nick King/Lansing State Journal via AP) Nick King

  • Bernie Trautmann holds a sign in protest of the Michigan State University Board of Trustees while it met on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018, outside the Hannah Administration Building on the MSU campus in East Lansing, Mich. Trautmann, an MSU grad, said he has a daughter currently enrolled and said in light of what's gone on during the Larry Nassar case, he has apprehension about sending another child to the university next year. The university's athletic director announced his retirement Friday, becoming the second university official to step down this week over the school's handling of sexual abuse allegations against disgraced former sports doctor Nassar. (Nick King /Lansing State Journal via AP) Nick King

  • Trustee Dianne Byrum, right, hugs Jennifer Ferguson, daughter of Trustee Joel Ferguson, after a Michigan State University Board of Trustees meeting on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018, in the board room at the Hannah Administration Building on the MSU campus in East Lansing, Mich. Michigan State University's athletic director announced his retirement Friday, becoming the second university official to step down this week over the school's handling of sexual abuse allegations against disgraced former sports doctor Larry Nassar. (Nick King /Lansing State Journal via AP) Nick King

  • Michigan State University Board of Trustees Chairman Brian Breslin reads a statement on behalf of the board during a meeting on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018, in the board room at the Hannah Administration Building on the MSU campus in East Lansing, Mich. Michigan State University's athletic director announced his retirement Friday, becoming the second university official to step down this week over the school's handling of sexual abuse allegations against disgraced former sports doctor Larry Nassar. (Nick King /Lansing State Journal via AP) Nick King



Associated Press
Friday, January 26, 2018

EAST LANSING, Mich. – Michigan State University’s athletic director retired Friday, 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 was the school’s AD 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 Friday, 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.”

Trustee Brian Mosallam said: “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.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos confirmed Friday that her agency is 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.

Students planned a Friday evening march and protest.

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 or 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.”