By LARRY LAGE and MIKE HOUSEHOLDER, Associated Press
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Mark Hollis has built a reputation as an innovative athletic director at Michigan State over the past decade.
He is now facing open calls for his ouster in the wake of the Larry Nassar sex abuse scandal. His legacy may crumble as part of the fallout .
A day after Michigan State President Lou Anna Simon resigned amid an outcry over the school’s handling of allegations against the disgraced doctor, attention shifted to others on the campus where Nassar once worked amid questions of who might be to blame for his misconduct. USA TODAY columnist Christine Brennan called for Hollis to leave his post .
There has been no evidence that Simon or Hollis knew Nassar was sexually abusing young girls and women, including some athletes who competed for the Spartans. Still, Simon stepped down under pressure.
“As tragedies are politicized, blame is inevitable,” Simon said in her resignation letter. “As president, it is only natural that I am the focus of this anger.”
A Title IX probe conducted by the university cleared Nassar of sexual assault allegations in 2014. He was, though, advised by the school to avoid being alone with patients while treating their “sensitive areas,” but the school didn’t 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.
Michigan State gymnastics coach Kathie Klages resigned last year after she was suspended for defending Nassar. Klages is accused of downplaying complaints about Nassar in 1997 — 21 years ago. William Strampel , who was dean of Michigan State’s College of Osteopathic Medicine and has been named in lawsuits by victims, announced last month he was taking a leave of absence for medical reasons. Strampel remains a faculty member.
Hollis, like Simon, is a Michigan State graduate. He has been the Spartans’ athletic director since 2008 and was chairman of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee last season. Hollis’ unique ideas include putting hockey and basketball games in football stadiums and a basketball game on an aircraft carrier. One of his best friends is a Michigan State icon: Hall of Fame basketball coach Tom Izzo, the best man at his wedding and a former roommate.
The Michigan attorney general is going to review how Michigan State handled the Nassar case, per the school’s request. The NCAA has also sent a letter of inquiry to the school “regarding potential NCAA rules violations related to the assaults Larry Nassar perpetrated against girls and young women, including some student-athletes at Michigan State.”
Addressed to Hollis, the NCAA said serious concerns have been raised about institutional practices, athlete safety and the institution’s actions to protect individuals from Nassar.
Hollis did not return messages seeking comment on Thursday. He did respond with a public statement and released the NCAA letter of inquiry.
“Since my first day on the job as athletic director, my focus has always been on the student-athlete,” Hollis said. “They are at the core of our athletic department mission statement. Our first priority has always been and will always be their health and safety. In regards to the letter we received from the NCAA last night, the athletic compliance and university general counsel offices are preparing a comprehensive response. Michigan State University will cooperate with any investigation.”
Michigan State student body President Lorenzo Santavicca, a 21-year-old senior from Macomb Township, said “who knew what and when” will be the key question to be answered.
“I think even though the president had resigned, one of the things that we are still asking ourselves is: ‘No matter who you are at this institution, if you knew something and you didn’t act, you have a responsibility to make sure that folks are safe and secure on this campus,” Santavicca said.
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