Michigan State AD Mark Hollis to retire in wake of Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal
Hollis' abrupt departure comes amid the firestorm at Michigan State
Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis will retire from his position after the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal rocked Michigan State University as well as USA Gymnastics. His final day on the job will be Wednesday.
Multiple people with knowledge of the decision confirmed to CBS Sports the initial report from Detroit Free Press, and Hollis subsequently confirmed the news with a gathering of local media.
Hollis' retirement comes in the wake of the Nassar scandal that led to the resignation of Michigan State president Lou Anna Simon on Wednesday. The university has come under massive, widespread scrutiny amid the trial of the former gymnastics trainer and team doctor, who worked at MSU from 1997-2016. Nassar was also a longtime doctor for USA Gymnastics.
On Wednesday, the 54-year-old Nassar was sentenced to 40-175 years in prison after pleaded guilty to 10 counts of first degree criminal sexual conduct with children under the age of 16. Nassar was previously sentenced for 60 years for possession of child pornography.
"When you look at the scope of everything, that's the reason I made a choice to retire now," Hollis told reporters.
He also was emotional and made sure to address the victims of Nassar's abuse, many of whom attended Michigan State. More than 160 victims came forward and spoke out against Nassar, to his face, at his trial.
Hollis' announcement also pre-empted a report from ESPN on Friday. ESPN's story depicts a pattern of sexual and physical assaults, those allegations being reported, and the handling of those cases resulting in inconsistent punishments -- if any at all. What's more, Michigan State was withholding athletes' names in public records despite the law requiring otherwise. Michigan State was sued, and lost its battle in court, after trying to cover up the names of football and basketball players who had been accused of physical or sexual assault, according to ESPN's Outside the Lines story.
ESPN's story states at least 16 MSU football players have been accused of rape or physical violence since 2007. Three former Michigan State players -- Keith Appling, Adreian Payne and Travis Walton -- were also implicated in physical or sexual assault cases. Appling and Payne's had been previously reported, but not with the detail revealed in Friday's ESPN investigation.
Prior to the ESPN report, Hollis also released a written statement. This is it in full:
"Michigan State University is a great institution, and its greatest strengths are the people who call themselves Spartans. Many, if not all, of those Spartans are hurting, especially the courageous survivors of Larry Nassar's abuse. My heart breaks thinking about the incomprehensible pain all of them and their families have experienced. Along with many, I was brought to tears as I listened to their statements. There simply aren't the right words to express our sympathy.
"Our campus, and beyond, has been attacked by evil, an individual who broke trust and so much more. As a campus community, we must do everything we can to ensure this never happens again; to make sure any sexual assault never occurs. But to do so, we must listen and learn lessons. Only then can we truly begin the process of healing. I have tried to do this since first learning about the abuse in September 2016.
"At the beginning of my tenure as Athletic Director, I established a mission statement – one with the student-athlete at its core. Our first priority has always been their health and safety. That focus, along with our core values, has guided our department each and every day. Values such as respect, accountability, and perhaps most importantly integrity, have served as a foundation through good times and bad – perhaps at no time more than the last few days.
"I spoke to my administrative staff, coaches, student-athletes, and most importantly, my wife Nancy and my children, over the course of the past week. They are all incredible people, amazing Spartans. I have always been a Spartan, and always will be. It's been an absolute honor to guide the Athletic Department for the last decade. 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.
"Much attention has recently been given to outside investigations into the University and the Athletic Department, including those both by the Michigan Attorney General and the NCAA. Let me be clear, that in retirement, I will fully cooperate with these and any other investigations. As a University, we must focus on the healing of the survivors and the entire community."
No interim athletic director has been named.
Hollis' retirement is an abrupt ending to a career that was for many years considered to be among the most esteemed in college athletics. Hollis graduated from Michigan State in 1985, was an employee of Michigan State since 1995 and was hired as athletic director in 2008. He is longtime friends with Tom Izzo, the Spartans' still-active Hall of Fame men's basketball coach.
Hollis made his name on being creative with marketing in college athletics, most prominently with college basketball. He organized the "Basketbowl" and "Basketbowl II" in 2003 and 2008, respectively. The original pitted Michigan State against Kentucky and set the record for highest attendance (78,129) for a basketball crowd at one game. Hollis also catalyzed the idea of playing college basketball games on aircraft carriers, the first of which happened in 2011 on the USS Carl Vinson and featured MSU vs. North Carolina. President Barack Obama attended the game.
Hollis was also a primary player in last November's PK80, the Portland-based 16-team dual tournament event that honored Nike founder Phil Knight. Hollis told reporters at the PK80 that he was hoping to pull off another event a few years down the road, one that was similar to PK80 but instead involved two games being played simultaneously in a domed football stadium.
In 2016-17, Hollis finished his fifth and final season on the NCAA Tournament men's basketball selection committee, serving as chair.
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