January 13th, 2018
Simon, Hollis resignations just
the start of a tsunami to hit MSU
By KEITH GAVE
Like a boulder tossed into the Red Cedar River creating a tidal wave that threatens the entire Michigan State University campus, the monstrous acts of sexual predator claimed another high-profile victim this morning. And the carnage is just beginning.
Athletic Director Mark Hollis, one of the best in the business, joined university president Lou Anna K. Simon in a hasty resignation/retirement – aftershocks following the sentencing of Larry Nasser, the physician-turned-serial sex offender who preyed on young, female athletes.
Nasser is the former USA Gymnastics doctor who doubled as a faculty member at Michigan State, where he treated – and abused – not just gymnasts but athletes in several other sports, including volleyball, rowing, softball and track, and field, according to his accusers. He was sentenced Wednesday to 40 to 175 years in prison for sexually abusing more than 150 girls and young women.
Simon, under immense pressure from MSU students, state legislators, and even a few regents, resigned the next day. Hollis, the national athletic director of the year in 2012 and the chairman of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament selection committee last year, followed Friday by an emotional announcement.
“It's been an absolute honor to guide the athletic department for the last decade.,” Hollis said in a statement released by the university. “That being said, today I am announcing my retirement.
"This was not an easy decision for my family, and you should not jump to any conclusions based on our decision. Listen to facts. I am not running away from anything, I am running toward something. Comfort, compassion, and understanding for the survivors and our community; togetherness, time and love for my family.”
It may not have been an easy decision, but in the end, Hollis had no other choice.
Like the scandal that rocked Penn State University during the investigation into assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky preying on young boys, MSU is being bombarded with questions such as: what did people close to the situation – or the ones overseeing the department – know, when did they know it and, most importantly, why was Nasser able to continue his evil “treatment” of these young women for nearly two decades?
It’s outrageous and heartbreaking to learn that some of these young women approached their coaches, athletic trainers and yes, even some parents. Yet nothing was done until a former gymnast went to an Indianapolis newspaper and made the accusations public. Which opened an investigation into USA Gymnastics. Which spread quickly to MSU. Now, with the nation’s eyes turned on East Lansing, the investigations will widen, and deepen.
More jobs will be lost. And it won’t be surprising if more criminal charges are filed against some deemed to be complicit, those who knew but turned the other cheek.
This all begs the question: How will this affect MSU’s athletic department – even its renowned (thanks to in large part to Hollis) football and basketball programs – by the time the NCAA’s enforcement arm is done? Penn State suffered deeply. If Michigan State loses scholarships in its football and basketball program, don’t be surprised to see Mark Dantonio and Tom Izzo – heretofore coaches thought to be lifers at MSU, looking for the exits.
In fact, as calls from state and national leaders grow louder for a deeper and wider criminal investigation, the media are already digging into the story. ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” has spent a lot of time in East Lansing in recent weeks and reports finding “a pattern of widespread denial, inaction and information suppression of such allegations by officials ranging from campus police to the Spartan athletic department.
“Over the past three years, MSU has three times fought in court -- unsuccessfully -- to withhold names of athletes in campus police records. The school has also deleted so much information from some incident reports that they were nearly unreadable. In circumstances in which administrators have commissioned internal examinations to review how they have handled certain sexual violence complaints, officials have been selective in releasing information publicly. . . And attorneys who have represented accusers and the accused agree on this: University officials have not always been transparent, and often put the school's reputation above the need to give fair treatment to those reporting sexual violence and to the alleged perpetrators.
“Even MSU's most-recognizable figures, football coach Mark Dantonio and basketball coach Tom Izzo, have had incidents involving their programs, Outside the Lines has found.”
Bottom line, this is only going to get worse. Much worse. OTL, and surely other news organizations, are resurrecting some long-buried, embarrassing stories. It noted that “since Dantonio's tenure began in 2007, at least 16 MSU football players have been accused of sexual assault or violence against women, according to interviews and public records obtained by Outside the Lines.”
In other words, this story could linger for months, perhaps years – and may take decades to overcome.
But all that pales in comparison to the pain inflicted on so many young girls by Nasser. Trust betrayed. Lives shattered. At least one life lost by a young woman unable to come to terms with how Nasser violated her.
So whether or not Simon and Hollis knew anything, they fell on their swords. Others will as well – unless they wind up in jail, too. And if they truly had a hint of what Nasser was doing in his examination rooms behind closed doors, that’s where they deserve to be.
And I’m sorry, but sentence of up to 175 years behind bars, as the judge in Nasser’s case handed down, seems awfully light – for anybody who knew, and allowed to continue.
Keith Gave’s new book, “The Russian Five, A story of espionage, defection, bribery andcourage,” is available for pre-sale on Amazon.com. Watch this space for local appearances and book-signings.
Follow on twitter @KeithGave