Dr. Larry Nassar will go down as one of the most evil actors in modern American sports history, and Michigan State will go down as one of the saddest administrations in collegiate athletics history because of his actions on campus and the failure to report sexual assault that was happening right under their noses.
Many shoes have dropped since the trail of Nassar wrapped up and his sentence to spending the rest of his life and forever more beyond that in prison concluded. The first shoe to drop at MSU was that of the president of the university, Lou Ann Simon, who resigned earlier this week.
Even in resigning, Simon proved why this whole thing is such a tragedy — because Michigan State has been woefully inadequate in protecting its students and completely tone-deaf in how it has talked publicly about this sad situation.
“As tragedies are politicized, blame is inevitable,” she said in statement. “As president, it is only natural that I am the focus of this anger. I understand, and that is why I have limited my personal statements. Throughout my career, I have worked very hard to put Team MSU first. Throughout my career, I have consistently and persistently spoken and worked on behalf of Team MSU. I have tried to make it not about me. I urge those who have supported my work to understand that I cannot make it about me now. Therefore, I am tendering my resignation as president according to the terms of my employment agreement.”
Tragedies are politicized? Perhaps Simon was talking about some internal strife on the Board of Trustee’s, which has certainly been the case, but to most in the general public they are left wondering what the heck she is talking about.
But, her resignation is far from the final change that will happen in the fallout from Nassar’s trial and the awful revelations that came from it.
The next shoe to drop was that of long-time athletics director Mark Hollis, who resigned his post on Friday.
“It’s been an absolute honor to guide the Athletic Department for the last decade. That being said, today I am announcing my retirement,” Hollis said in a statement released by the university.
“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,” Hollis said.
Hollis oversaw the athletic department for over a decade, officially taking on the role of AD on Jan. 1, 2008 after more than a decade working within the department in various roles.
It’s good to know that Hollis stepped down, but his resignation rings hallow given what we’ve learned through the Dr. Larry Nasser trial. What took place at Michigan State and to other female gymnasts in the United States at the hands of Nasser is simply sickening. There’s no other way to describe it.
What is equally sickening is the knowledge we all gained at the trail that there were more than one, two or even three opportunities for Nassar’s evil to be stopped on the campus of Michigan State no less. Yet, under Hollis’ watch absolutely nothing was done and not a single coach or person was held responsible for their actions when revelations were coming out at trail.
Coaches, trainers, fellow athletes and administrators failed their athletes at the highest level in this case. When you’re the head of an organization and everyone below you fails, you fail too. So, congrats on “retiring” and running away (even though you say you aren’t) from what you and your staff is responsible for.
Even more damning is that Hollis was wholly unaware of any previous claims made by student-athletes or anyone else until the final claim that broke everything open in 2016.
Athletic departments are supposed to be there to help the student-athlete become successful in life and to protect and guide them through difficult times.
But, this isn’t the only scandalous event that Hollis has had to navigate in his time as Spartans AD. Let’s not forget the winter of 2017, which saw three football players accused of, charged and dismissed from the team for sexual assault and then had another player accused of sexual assault just a few months later.
It was a big black eye, and one that Hollis did little to really quell, because these weren’t the first time a football player had a big run-in with the law or sexual assault charges. Nothing happened other than those players being dismissed, and rightfully so.
When you take the football offseason of 2017 and add in what took place for over a decade to gymnasts at MSU, you see a very troubling pattern of zero accountability or care for the welfare of students and athletes on campus. That’s as damning a statement as you can make for any athletic director and by any measure, an ultimate failure of anyone in an authority position.
So, forgive me if I find the victory of Hollis’ “retirement” just a bit too little, too late for the victims of Nassar.
With the NCAA opening up an investigation, this could be just the tip of the iceberg for a program in turmoil and real trouble moving forward.