UPDATE: MSU gymnastics coach suspended

By  | 

EAST LANSING, Mich. (WILX) -- Michigan State University suspended longtime gymnastics coach Kathie Klages on Monday. The university is not saying why, but the suspension comes two weeks after a lawsuit accused Klages of ignoring sexual abuse complaints against former MSU doctor Larry Nassar.

Lawyer David Mittleman is representing the client in the suit, and says Klages' suspension is no coincidence.

"Suspending someone is tantamount to an admission of responsibility," said Mittleman, a lawyer at Church Wyble a division of Grewal Law in Okemos.

Mittleman says his client, a former MSU gymnast, claims 20 years ago Klages discouraged her from reporting that Nassar sexually assaulted her and defended the doctor.

"She was told you must be misunderstanding his treatment," Mittleman explained. "The coach intimidated her, cross examined her, marshaled other athletes with the university and other teammates on the junior MSU gymnastics team, and had other adults essentially intimidate her out of filing."

What's more Mittleman says Klages told the then 16-year-old girl that reporting anything could bring her serious consequences, so the girl continued seeing Nassar for treatment,

"The coach had already called him to tell him about the conversation and he quickly manipulated her once again to the point where she felt she was, as they said, misunderstanding from something wrong to appropriate medical treatment," MIttleman said. "She feels betrayed and she'll have to deal with that for the rest of her life."

MSU is staying tight-lipped and as of Monday night hadn't released a formal statement, but University Spokesman Jason Cody told News 10 he could only confirm Klages was suspended on Monday.

In an email Associate Athletic Director Richard Bader sent to several people associated with the team he wrote, "many of you have communicated with my office over the last several weeks about the program. I write this afternoon that Coach Klages was suspended from her coaching duties this morning. While the University does not disclose specific information about personnel actions, I do wish to assure you that the team continues to have our complete support."

The email from Bader also states Mike Rowe will step in as Interim Head Coach for the remainder of the season.

Klages, 62, coached the gymnastics team for 27 seasons.

While Michigan State hasn't said if Klages' suspension was linked to the Nassar investigation, Mittleman sees it as a small victory for his clients.

"It's the first real step I believe in confronting their long standing denial of responsibility," said Mittleman referring to the university. "When bad guys are enabled and allowed to run free and unchecked with knowledge, and failing to protect the young girls and women, Michgian state has to realize responsibility and become accountable."

Mittleman says coaches are mandatory reporters so they're legally required to report when criminal sexual misconduct involving a minor is either observed or suspected. He says if they don't, they could face both criminal charges and civil liabilities.

3:30 p.m. -------
Michigan State University has suspended its women's gymnastics coach Kathie Klages from her coaching duties, as of Monday, February 13, 2017, according to an email sent by the university's associate athletic director Richard Bader.

The suspension comes while Michigan State University is undergoing an investigation of sexual assault allegations against former USA Gymnastics team doctor and MSU staffer, Larry Nassar.

Last month, court documents revealed a woman said that Coach Klages downplayed her concerns about Nassar in the late 1990s and warned her that a formal complaint about sexual abuse by the doctor could lead to major consequences.

The email from Bader states the gymnastic team has the support of the university and that Mike Rowe will step in as Interim Head Coach for the remainder of the season.

WILX News 10 is working on this story and will continue to update it on WILX.com and News 10 at 4, 5, 6, and 11 as information becomes available.