MSU gymnastics coach retires amid scandal

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EAST LANSING, Mich. (WILX) -- Longtime Michigan State University gymnastics coach Kathie Klages announced her retirement on Tuesday, just a day after being suspended by the university.

When Michigan State University suspended Klages on Monday, they would not say why.

Tuesday afternoon, two statements were released within an hour of each other. The first from a lawyer representing Kages announcing her client's retirement from MSU, effective immediately. The second was a letter from athletic director Mark Hollis sent to Klages explaining why the university suspended her the day before for defending Nassar.

All this came the same day a former spartan youth gymnast joined a federal lawsuit, claiming 20 years ago Klages discouraged her from reporting that Nassar sexually assaulted her. The woman's lawyer David Mittleman says during one exam Nassar held her down and forced himself on her despite her protests. He says when his client told Klages about the abuse her coach said there was no reason to bring it up.

"They told the adult in the room what was going on and she was betrayed," Mittleman said.

Mittleman is representing another woman, who was a former MSU gymnast, who filed a lawsuit two weeks ago claiming Klages ignored her sexual abuse complaints against former Nassar.

According to Shirlee Bobryk, the lawyer representing Klages, her client is distressed by these accusations writing, "Dr. Nassar was trusted by Ms. Klages to competently and ethically treat her team member. Had she ever received information to cast doubt on the appropriateness of that trust in Dr. Nassar she would have reacted immediately."

As for Hollis, he didn't acknowledge any wrongdoing beyond a meeting Klages held with her team in September of last year, when allegations against Nassar were first made public.

According to the letter Hollis sent Klages many students say they left the meeting with mixed messages especially since their coach defended Nassar.

A mother who's daughter is currently on the team and says she was sexually abused by Nassar, told News 10 about the meeting, but to protect her daughter's identity News 10 is not naming her.

"She sat all the girls down and told them that this was going on with Larry and that they were told not to speak to anybody about it including media. They were told not even their families."

Klages has not been named as a defendant in any of the lawsuits, but she says she is ready to testify under oath.

Klages' legal counsel released the following statement:

"Like many others, MSU Gymnastics Coach, Kathie Klages, is deeply disturbed by the recent allegations and lawsuits brought against Dr. Larry Nassar, Michigan State University, and others. Although she is not a named defendant in any lawsuit, she is extremely distressed by the accusations that have been made about her creating any sort of impediment to gymnasts reporting complaints of criminal sexual conduct or sexually inappropriate behavior.

Kathie Klages has proudly coached MSU gymnastics for 27 years. The MSU gymnastics team members and coaching staff have been her top priority for her entire career. She would never do anything to put any of them in harm’s way. Dr. Nassar was trusted by Ms. Klages to competently and ethically treat her team members. Had she ever received any information to cast doubt on the appropriateness of that trust in Dr. Nassar, she would have reacted immediately to protect her gymnasts.

Ms. Klages has and will continue to cooperate fully in all ongoing investigations and lawsuits. At the advice of legal counsel, she will not comment further on the specific allegations of the complaints so as not to interfere with the legal process. However, Ms. Klages looks forward to being able to testify under oath and fully answer all questions that relate to any involvement she is alleged to have had in the situation.

The underlying accusations involving Ms. Klages have been a serious distraction to her professional responsibilities and detrimental to her overall well-being. Her recent suspension as head coach is a consequence of that. Out of respect to the University and the gymnastics program in particular, Ms. Klages believes it is in everyone’s best interests for her to retire from her current position at MSU. She has the utmost confidence in Mike Rowe’s ability to serve as interim head coach of the gymnastics team."

View the PDF Here

The letter from Mark Hollis is as follows:

"I write to follow up on the meeting we had yesterday morning to discuss the University's review of allegations that members of the women's gymnastics team were discouraged from cooperating with the ongoing law enforcement investigation of Dr. Nasser. The allegations appear to relate primarily to a meeting held with the gymnastics team on

September 12, 2016. We understand the purpose of the meeting was to inform the student athletes of the breaking news story regarding Dr. Nassar, provide advice on responding to media inquiries, and offer any necessary support and resources. Interviews with studentathletes, coaching staff (including you), and other athletic department staff confirm that the focus of the meeting was on communications with the media, not law enforcement.

Those interviews also confirm that at the conclusion of the meeting you shared with the team your highly emotional sense of shock regarding the allegations against Dr. Nassar. That resulted in several student-athletes leaving the meeting feeling that they had received mixed messages. Others felt confused about who they could or should speak with about the situation. While I acknowledge you provided student-athletes with information about reporting to the Office of Institutional Equity, your passionate defense of Dr. Nassar created an emotionally charged environment for the team. That has not abated and my concerns led me to suspend you with pay.

You have since notified me that after thoughtful consideration of all the circumstances, you intend to retire from your coaching position effective immediately. You have also assured me that you will continue to cooperate"