On potential NCAA investigation of Larry Nassar scandal, Michigan State trustee says: ‘This is not Penn State’
2007 MLive file photo of Joel Ferguson.
Lansing, MI — Despite calls for the ouster of Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon, “that’s not going to happen. Period,” MSU Trustee Joel Ferguson said in a radio interview Monday.
“She’s a fighter,” Ferguson told Tim Staudt, who has a sports talk show on WVFN-AM. “She’s not going to get run out of there by what someone else did.”
MSU and Simon are under fire for their handling of the controversy around Larry Nassar, a former MSU sports-medicine doctor who has pleaded guilty to molesting patients under the guise of medical treatment.
More than 130 women have given victim-impact statements so far in Nassar’s sentencing hearing, which is in its sixth day Tuesday at Ingham County Circuit Court.
Many of those statements have included denunciations of MSU, which reportedly received complaints about Nassar dating back to 1997. Nassar was fired in September 2016.
“This could have been prevented,” 16-year-old Natalie Woodland told the court Tuesday morning. MSU “could have saved me and you didn’t.”
More than 140 women are suing MSU for its role in the Nassar situation. MSU has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuits, but Ferguson said that MSU attorneys are talking with the plaintiff attorneys.
“The young ladies who have been wronged, they’re going to get something happening in their favor,” said Ferguson, who is the vice chairman of the board of trustees. It’s unclear whether his comment was referring to a lawsuit settlement.
However, Ferguson also said Nassar was on “an island by himself.”
“None of our senior people were complicit in what this pervert did,” he said.
The board held a four-hour closed-door meeting Friday to talk about the uproar surrounding the Nassar controversy, but Ferguson said trustees were immediately determined to support Simon. Following Friday’s meeting, the board together made a statement of support read by Chair Brian Breslin. During the weekend, Trustee Mitch Lyons said he did not agree with the board and also called for Simon’s resignation.
“I’ve been on the board for 30 years, and she’s by far the best president we’ve ever had,” Ferguson said. “For Lou Anna not to be president when we have so much going on, the collateral damage would be tremendous.
“The board is committed to what’s best for the university and what’s best for the university is strongly supporting our president, who has strong leadership and so many other things people take for granted. This is not about Lou Anna.”
In pointing to Simon’s leadership skills, he pointed to the recent renovation of Breslin Center, MSU’s basketball arena, saying she lined up the donors for that.
He also said that “major donors and major alumni” have contacted board members with messages of support for Simon.
Ferguson noted the board agreed last Friday to ask Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette to investigate MSU’s handling of the Nassar controversy.
“Whatever he says, we’ll live with that,” Ferguson said. “We can’t lose on this investigation. If he finds nothing, fine. If he finds someone was complicit, we’ll take action. We can’t lose.”
Staudt asked if MSU might be investigated by the NCAA, drawing a comparison to the Penn State sex-abuse scandal.
Ferguson laughed. “For what?” he said about the possibility of an investigation. “This is not Penn State,” adding they were investigated because the scandal involved its football team.
Nassar was team physician for the MSU women’s gymnastics and rowing teams, and MSU athletes are among his alleged victims. The lawsuits also allege that coaches and/or trainers of the MSU gymnastics, softball and track/cross country teams dismissed complaints about Nassar years ago.
“There’s a lot of noise out there,” Ferguson said about the Nassar controversy. “It’s hard to pick out what people want to hear right now.”