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University of Michigan Fires Gymnastics Coach With Ties to Nassar Scandal

January 18th, 2019 General News

Source: The New York Times 

By Mihir Zaveri

 

The University of Michigan athletics department said Sunday that it would end its contract with a former U.S.A. Gymnastics executive connected to the Lawrence G. Nassar sexual abuse scandal, just days after the university hired her as a coaching consultant for its women’s gymnastics team.

The university’s decision to move on from the former executive, Rhonda Faehn, is the latest fallout from the scandal, in which Nassar, a former doctor for the United States women’s gymnastics team and Michigan State University, was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison for sex crimes against female athletes.

Ms. Faehn, who was fired in May after serving as senior vice president of U.S.A. Gymnastics for three years, had not been charged with a crime in the scandal, the University of Michigan noted when it hired her. She voluntarily testified before Congress in June that she had passed reports about Nassar’s abuse to her boss, the federation’s president, and believed he had promptly acted on them.

But outcry built after she was hired on Thursday, with some university regents and members of the public demanding an end to the contract with Ms. Faehn, The Detroit News reported Sunday.

“I have come to the conclusion that it is not in the best interest of the University of Michigan and our athletic program to continue the consulting contract with Rhonda Faehn,” Athletic Director Warde Manuel said in a statement. “It was the wrong decision, and I apologize.”

The athletics department did not answer further questions about Ms. Faehn’s firing. Efforts to reach Ms. Faehn, who led the women’s gymnastics program at the University of Florida to three straight N.C.A.A. titles, were not successful.

Ms. Faehn was believed to be the first U.S.A. Gymnastics official who was told about Nassar’s abuse, The Indianapolis Star reported in May.

During her testimony before Congress, she described how she had told the former president of U.S.A. Gymnastics, Steve Penny, about a coach’s concerns about Nassar in July 2015. She said that she assumed Mr. Penny would quickly report the concerns to law enforcement, and that he had directed her not to discuss “the current issue” about a member of the medical staff with anyone.

In an announcement about her hiring, Mr. Manuel said that after the university’s “exhaustive due diligence,” it “felt comfortable that coach Faehn reported all information available to her regarding Larry Nassar and that she cooperated fully.”

 

“Neither an internal investigation by U.S.A. Gymnastics or a criminal investigation by the F.B.I. have assigned culpability or resulted in any charges against her,” Mr. Manuel said in the announcement.

It is not clear what exactly led to the university changing direction or when Ms. Faehn’s contract is set to end. As of Sunday night, the university’s website still listed her as an assistant coach.

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