What MSU and Other AD’s Must Do Now: Nassar Victims’ Car-Wreck Was Avoidable, if AD Hollis Had Installed PSU Seatbelts

Unsafe at Any Speed


Former MSU AD Mark Hollis

MSU and all other big-time schools are in crisis; on a triage basis, here’s the one thing they all must immediately do: Install the Penn State “Integrity Program.”

Ralph Nader’s 1960 book ‘Unsafe at Any Speed’: a) showed that many horrible injuries suffered by car passengers could easily be prevented; b) suggested significant changes in the way Americans use – and control – the automobile; c) triggered, within a few years, all cars to be equipped with seatbelts and other safety-related design changes.

The 2011 Penn State Sandusky pedophilia scandal similarly:

a) showed a nation the horrible sexual assault injuries which could be inflicted upon minors by one pedophile, in concert with an out-of-control athletic department and university, too eager to bury events which might affect its quest for wins and profit;

b) suggested, with its post-Sandusky investigations and reports, some basic changes in athletic and university operations which would help avoid future needless injuries; and

c) triggered, within a year, the 2012 basic “Athletics Integrity Agreement” signed by PSU, the NCAA, and the Big Ten, which – in order to comply with NCAA and Big Ten constitutions and bylaws, and “principles regarding institutional control, responsibility, ethical conduct, and integrity” – required PSU to install an abuse-preventing “Seatbelt” called the “Integrity Program.”

The Integrity Program: A Sexual Abuse-Prevention Seatbelt

This Program, summarized below, mandated some new university positions, policies, and programs [in bold], and outlined many mandated specific action items [underlined]:

1. Appointment of an “Athletics Integrity Officer” [AIO], with access to all athletic department and university records, and responsible for developing, and monitoring compliance with policies and procedures, with a duty to report to a senior university officer outside of the athletic department.

2. Appointment of an “Athletic Integrity Council” [AIC], including the AIO, 3 non-athletic department faculty or administrators, the FAR, and the athletic department’s compliance officer, and required to meet quarterly and report to the president and board of trustees.

3. Appointment of a “Team Monitor” [TM], for each varsity team, to “monitor and oversee activities within [the team] relating to compliance with the AIA and other relevant standards,” and report annually to the AD and AIC regarding “any issues or problems that have arisen during that year, and any corrective action taken.” In addition, the AD “shall review” all TM reports, and certify annually in writing, to the AIC, NCAA, and Big Ten, that the “athletic department is in compliance” with NCAA and B10 constitutions and bylaws, and “principles regarding institutional control, responsibility, ethical conduct, and integrity.”

4. Create or revise a Code of Conduct [COC] for “Covered Persons,” (defined as all student-athletes, coaches and staffers associated with athletics, but also the university board of trustees and president.) This COC must be used in performance evaluations, and require compliance with all relevant standards; in addition, each covered person must certify in writing that she has read the COC. This COC must require that all covered persons “report suspected violations of the relevant standards, “or other conduct that has a reasonable risk of undermining the University’s commitment to principles of civility, integrity, and ethical conduct in its Athletic Department. This report must be made to the AIO or to a separate Hotline. And these Policies and Procedures are to be distributed to all Covered Persons.

5. Other Policies: The university must implement written Policies and Procedures concerning the operation of the Integrity Program and compliance with the AIA and other relevant standards. These “should contain mechanisms designed to ensure that Covered Persons do not permit their collective or individual reverence or deference towards any individual, team, or other aspect of the Athletics Department to undermine their responsibility to comply with the principles regarding institutional control, responsibility, ethical conduct, and integrity, as reflected in the relevant standards.

6. Annual Training for all Covered Persons, about the above relevant standards and Policies and Procedures.

7. Establish a “Disclosure Program” [DP] which includes a Hotline, for named or anonymous reporting any issues which might violate the relevant standards or Policies and Procedures. This Program must be “widely publicized.” Any report requires the AIO to followup and investigate and, where he deems necessary, then include “internal review of the allegations” by the University. The AIO must maintain a “Disclosure Log,” to be made available to the NCAA and Big Ten

PSU implemented all these changes (and many others), which were monitored and approved by Sen. George Mitchell, who was named in the AIA as the unique “Independent Athletic Integrity Monitor.” Mitchell issued almost three years of lengthy, quarterly reports.

It is important to emphasize several points made clear by this Integrity Program seatbelt:

The Integrity Program Defined an Industry-Wide, State-of-the-Art, Standard of Care

The AIA and its Integrity Program were not punitive, or meant to investigate Sandusky’s wrong-doing, since Sandusky had already been arrested. The AIA and IP were, instead, prescriptive, defining the state-of-the-art standard of care required for any big-time university athletic program, in order to guard against the risk of sexual abuse surrounding athletics.

MSU and All Other Big 10 Schools, Were Parties to the AIA and Integrity Program

The Athletics Integrity Agreement was signed, not only by PSU and the NCAA, but also the Big Ten, in the person of Commissioner Jim Delany. As a result, every Big Ten school was bound by its terms.

MSU Never Installed the Integrity Program

MSU AD Hollis and Pres. Simon, it appears, ignored the AIA and its Integrity Program, as did Big Ten Commissioner Delany. (Simon was the head the entire NCAA executive committee when the AIA and IP were adopted.) The list of seatbelt features which MSU never installed is long:

Athletics Integrity Officer;

Athletics Integrity Council;

Team Monitors, who report to the AD and AIC – along with annual certification by Hollis that “the athletic department is in compliance”;

Code of Conduct for all Covered Persons, with specific annual training and certification by each person;

Disclosure Program (widely publicized) for anonymous reporting, with Hotline, with a Disclosure Log.

Driving Without Seatbelts, After a Warning

After 2012, MSU and its AD Hollis were driving without the seatbelts which any prudent big-time sports operation should have had in place. Hollis had been warned, when he saw the Sandusky predations revealed at PSU, but he was much more specifically warned by the AIA, about the precise kinds of significant changes required of any prudent university, to prevent sexual assault, as outlined in the Integrity Program.


MSU Womens’ Coach Suzy Merchant

The statement made by MSU womens’ basketball coach Suzy Merchant, on January 19 all to vividly displays the result of MSU driving without seatbelts for 6 years. Contrary to the most basic lesson from the PSU/Sandusky events — that institutional acts, omissions, policies, procedures, and training can allow needless injury to be inflicted by sexual predators — Merchant asserted that there is nothing that can be done about “Act-Alone Monsters.” Also on January 19, MSU coach Izzo stated he hoped that the Nassar-type assaults would “never happen again, not only at [MSU], but at every other institution.”


MSU Men’s Basketball Coach Izzo

MSU’s failure to install the simple AIA and Integrity Program seatbelts most likely helped cause much of the Nassar Car-Wreck, and the grave injuries to girls and women.

But, whatever has happened to date, this review shows MSU’s first duty to act, on a triage basis: immediately implement the AIA and the Integrity Program.  And every other big-time athletic program has the very same duty to implement. MSU/Nassar made clear that PSU/Sandusky was not a one-off, and that the risk inheres on every big-time athletic campus. Such immediate implementation is the first step allowing every AD to avoid the Post-Nassar Terror which should be now gripping each of them:

“It Can Happen Here, if I Don’t Make Changes, and Fast”

About brewonsouthu

lawyer, with interest in college sports and NCAA oversight and decisions, and sports generally.
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