How a Bad Athletic Director Can Ruin Your College Years
How the Nassar scandal...and a really, really bad Athletic Director have affected MSU Athletics.
I am a Spartan. I was extremely happy to be a Spartan for many years. Yes, we often overlook the flaws of our alma mater, but I cannot overlook them anymore.
When the Nasser scandal hit, it was bad and embarrassing. Not only for MSU and the deplorable way it handled the whole matter in the beginning, but it was embarrassing for all of us who call ourselves Spartans. A sexual predator was allowed to keep working because he got results. Michigan State was accused of ignoring complaints about Nassar from 1999 to 2018. 19 YEARS! Many women athletes who spoke up were ignored and worse. He was enabled by a culture of looking the other way and not taking women athletes, and women's athletics seriously. When the whole story finally broke and became public knowledge, we were outraged that it had gone on as long as it did, and that Michigan State University was embroiled in a huge scandal that cost them millions. I was further disappointed when they decided to hire former Governor John Engler to be Interim President and manage the Nassar case response. He was probably about the last person that I would have considered an empathic or capable manager. Under his reign as Governor of Michigan, he forced hundreds of Mentally ill patients out of their hospital wards and onto the streets. Crime went up by 10% overnight in the communities where the hospitals were shut down as very ill people were forced to fend for themselves with little-to-no social programs to help them. Police departments were strained, and many Officers were torn on how to handle the situation with no more State support for the mentally ill. Engler did this simply to balance the State's budget. Evidently it was more important to balance the budget than to take care of people who cannot take care of themselves. How many of us would forcibly eject mentally ill people onto the streets overnight with no help or support for them? I am guessing that most intelligent and ethical people would have a serious issue with this, but evidently, it’s a positive qualification at Michigan State University for an Interim President.
As a result of his bungling of responses to public inquiry and handling the Nassar case, Engler was instrumental in creating bad blood between its students and MSU's administration. So much so that one of the leading Nassar survivors, Rachel Denhollander, said this of Engler, “He chose to stand against every child and every sexual assault victim in the entire state, to protect an institution.”
So how much did this set MSU back for its mishandling of the process and its really poor empathy for its own students who suffered through Nassar's sexual misconduct? Well, the Department of Education hit Michigan State University with a record $4.5 million fine for its “complete failure to protect students.” In reality, this was nothing more than a slap on the wrist to MSU, and no amount of money could repay the young women who were victimized by Nassar. It's still a small amount of the total. MSU later agreed to pay $500 million to the victims and created a fund to help the victims of Nassar, but then retracted $75 million to further protect itself from additional court cases.
Who pays the $500 million and where did the money come from? Well, it would be nice to say that it was paid for by the people who caused the problem, right? The Administrators and the Managers who presided over Nassar's years at MSU, all got together and put up the money. They had a huge car wash and raised the money they needed. Right?! Nope.
"The money needed for any settlements in lawsuits filed against Michigan State University by victims of Larry Nassar will likely come from students and Michigan taxpayers"...
- MSU Interim President John Engler
The students pay for it. We pay for it. The programs and budgets of the University that are there to educate and enrich the people of our state, all absorb the costs in some way. This irritates me to no end. It's not fair and it's not right that the people with the least ability to pay, pay for those who create the problems.
So now there's this Covid thing...
MSU was already reeling with budget issues from the Nassar settlements, and then Covid hit. Covid has been a mess from the standpoint of schools everywhere. While many students and colleges have moved to online education in the face of the Covid Pandemic, many athletes and athletic departments have decided to stay active and make money for their institutions. Athletes have been asked to come to school and participate in their sport while non-athletic students have had the choice not to do this. I admit, that for an athlete, it’s a small price to pay. I know I would want to be there practicing my sport and working on making myself a top tier athlete. (Full disclosure: I was an MSU Swimmer, but I don't speak for everyone.) So how does MSU reward its athletes for their dedication to the sport that their school recruited them for? They cut their program.
You might be asking yourself what do these things have in common? What is the link between Nassar and MSU Athletics? Answer: Athletic Director Bill Beekman.
Had the Athletic Director at MSU (Bill Beekman) done his job and worked hard at raising funds, building up the MSU athletic programs and been active in the alumni association events, he probably would not be out chopping programs and people. He was part of the Board of Trustees who allowed Larry Nassar to thrive at MSU. When he decided to cut the MSU Swimming and Diving program, he lied about budget numbers, he lied about the pool facility and he lied about it repeatedly. Truth is, MSU has let its swimming and diving program languish for years with poor coaches going back to 2004 and earlier. The Athletic Department had no long-term plan for many of its facilities, and often ignored hands extended in help, and monies to support the betterment of MSU Swimming & Diving. Bill Beekman has even been accused of treating MSU alumni with "condescension and dismissal."
Just a short time ago he went into the McCaffree Pool and simply told the athletes that MSU was ending the Swimming and Diving program and this was their last season. Can you imagine being told that the University you love and perform for is ending the program? Many of the athletes were stunned. They signed on and were doing their part. Once again - this irritates me to no end. It's not fair and it's not right that the people with the least ability to pay, pay for those who create the problems.
MSU swimming makes up less that 1.5% of the Athletic Department budget of $140 million. It is well established that Beekman lied and misrepresented the situation to the students and the media. It’s a huge question if he really understands what the precise budget is for MSU Swimming. He seems to have double counted some facility costs. Bill Beekman is not a capable Director of MSU athletics, and he needs to be removed. He needs to be removed for lying, being part of a culture of not caring, and being wrong for MSU students. At $140 million, imagine what you could do by setting aside just a few dollars from each program and using it to create grants for self-funded sports over time. In addition, all the schools in the conference share in the winnings from each other's success and part of these funds could be used to create building and maintenance programs that keep all the schools' programs up to date. Sadly, long term thinking is often missing for Athletics at most Universities. Athletes and students beware! Take a long hard look at your favorite school, its programs, how it treats its students, and do your research before you commit!
Please join me in signing a petition to remove A.D. Bill Beekman and start the path to bring Michigan State University Athletics back to be a top tier performing program for its students and for the reputation of Michigan.
Please sign here: (this takes you to a Sum of Us Survey)