Former President Thinks Coaches Club Will Survive

By: Jason Colthorp Email
By: Jason Colthorp Email

Michigan State University's athletic department suspended all activities with the "Downtown Coaches Club" several weeks ago, according to Athletic Director Mark Hollis.

It's an update to the story we broke earlier on News 10.

Hollis released a statement saying MSU cut ties after learning about a state investigation into possible violations-- including the misuse of raffle money to buy football and basketball tickets.

Thursday, I talked with a former president and long-time member of the club about what it means for the group now... and in the future.

The downtown coaches club, the booster club for MSU football for almost three-quarters of a century, has specific rules for its officers and board members laid out on its web site. In its statement of principles: Board members are told they are there to serve-- not be served. In the by-laws: No part of the net earnings of the club shall benefit or be given to its members... trustees... or officers.

But charges by the State Lottery Bureau say those by-laws were broken. Numerous instances of misusing raffle proceeds, questionable checks written, illegal gambling, and nearly $20,000 spent on MSU football and basketball tickets that were mostly given to board members.

"I never have known of any negative allegations with the Downtown Coaches," said Duane Vernon, a former president of the club and a member since the 1960's.

Vernon was president of the club in the early 80's when Muddy Waters was coach and when he heard about the charges, he says he was "surprised."

"It's always been a good club-- and it still is-- despite whatever this is," he said.

Vernon as a longtime member knows what good the club has done and can do.

"It does a lot of good," said Vernon. "They've been great about boosting morale, raising money and really increasing the fan base over the years."

The lawyer for the club tells me the charges are overstated. He also says it was a small number of board members who made some mistakes but not for intentional personal gain.

That's why Vernon doesn't think this will be the end of the Downtown Coaches Club.

"I know these board members, and I can't imagine they would let any negativity keep this booster club from going on and doing a good job of supporting the football program."

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