More disturbing news regarding the dysfunctional nature of the Michigan State athletic department are revealed in latest reports from Lansing State Journal and Associated Press.
There is no such thing as a perfectly-run organization of any kind.
My own family is about as dysfunctional as an organization can get but we all certainly think it runs like the most well-oiled machine ever invented.
When the news regarding the abhorrent crimes of sexual assault perpetrated by Larry Nassar over twenty years that all occurred directly under the nose of the entire Michigan State University leadership and overall administration became front page news everywhere, I wrote about the fact that Michigan State clearly was, for all intents and purposes, asleep at the wheel for those twenty years. If you want to revisit the piece, find it here –
Not surprisingly, there were people who immediately took me to task and said that to rush to any sort of judgment was irresponsible.
Many howled at the moon when ESPN published its various stories within its “Outside The Lines” news gathering and reporting operation.
It was all a witch hunt.
The media was working to “take down” Michigan State.
It was a conspiracy being orchestrated by the ghost of Bo Schembechler, etc.
As those days turned to weeks and the weeks have turned to months, there has been a substantial amount of information that has come to light that has made it nearly impossible for anyone to deny that Michigan State University was operating with a dysfunctional infrastructure.
It would be nearly impossible for anyone to deny that there have been many incidents in which Michigan State student athletes have been embroiled in sexual assault allegations (as recently as the basketball season that just recently concluded), and that, at the very least, there appears to have been less than perfect approaches to the ways in which the sexual assault incidents have been handled by coaches and administrators.
Unfortunately, today’s reporting from the the Lansing State Journal and the Associated Press – picked up and published in today’s Detroit News and included below – shows that former athletic director, Mark Hollis, and university president, Lou Anna K. Simon, were repeatedly issued warnings of athletic staff members not adequately following financial procedures.
So many today want to immediately lay blame for just about everything at the feet of the media.
I continue to believe that the media – like any other vertical of our society – has bad apples and shows that it cannot be trusted unconditionally.
However, it isn’t hard to make the argument that, perhaps, it’s become standard to use the media as a scapegoat for irresponsibilities that are our own fault.
This reporting from the Lansing State Journal and the Associated Press isn’t colored by any bias and isn’t a part of any fictional “Blue Wall.”
This report is the result of the Lansing State Journal obtaining Michigan State University internal audits through a public records request.
And the findings – while nothing to make anyone think that the school should be shut down – are not encouraging.
The response to the repeated warnings about the flawed ways in which staff members (which staff members, specifically?) were not adhering to financial procedures might make one wonder if there were similar responses to other warnings across the athletic department’s regular course of operation.
Nobody is ever going to be able to say that Mark Hollis wasn’t one of the finer athletic directors in the nation during his proud tenure in the role at Michigan State.
He dedicated himself to his alma mater in a way that transcends what it means to be an athletic director and there are many reasons to suggest that he oversaw one of the most successful eras in the history of the university.
However, the failures of leadership over the twenty years when Nassar was sexually assaulting countless student athletes inside of Jenison Field House and elsewhere makes it clear – without equivocation – that Hollis’s (and previous athletic directors’) oversight, along with the senior leaders across the athletic department, was lacking, to say the very least.
The hope here is that outlets like the Lansing State Journal and the Associated Press continue to report and dig and find out where there has been dysfunction at Michigan State. Not because it’s important to shine any negative lights on the university but rather to understand where the failures have occurred so that the university can learn and improve on a constant basis.
For those who were quick to claim that much of the negativity that came to light when the Nassar trial grabbed the entire nation’s attention as the former gymnasts gave their gut-wrenching testimonies about their experience of being sexually assaulted while student athletes at Michigan State was merely due to a media witch hunt, I’d encourage those people to stop and think about all that’s been discovered since then.
This latest report is yet another illustration of an athletic department that had a lot of holes in its infrastructure.
It’s possible that the folks who have been reporting on this ongoing story have known a lot more about the ways in which Michigan State’s athletic department has operated than any of us have for many years.
Audits warned of lax MSU athletic money oversight
East Lansing – Audits show Michigan State University’s former athletic director Mark Hollis and former President Lou Anna Simon were repeatedly warned that sports staff members weren’t adequately following the school’s financial procedures.
The Lansing State Journal obtained the university’s internal audits through a public records request. Hollis and Simon left the university this year in the wake of the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal.
Auditors reported that athletic officials didn’t regularly review department finances and misused university-issued credit cards. Auditors also warned the athletic department six times that complimentary game tickets were being handled improperly.
The university’s athletic department has a $128 million budget.
A university spokeswoman said the audits show no evidence of fraud or missing funds.
The audits show officials offered explanations and improvements for each finding, but the same issues reappeared in subsequent audits.
The department was cautioned twice about giving an employee access within the university’s payroll software that would allow them to unilaterally hire, fire and change pay rates, among other things. Though Hollis’ staff promised in 2013 to look into making changes to roles and responsibilities within the system, auditors shared a nearly identical warning last March.
Department officials then promised to make changes by last April.
Auditors also warned of inconsistent financial reviews again last year. The department’s leadership said it was introducing new software and would “ensure that all accounts are assigned to a reviewer, including new accounts as they are added.”
Hollis’ administration said the changes would be made by July 2017.
It’s unclear if either of these changes were made last year. The auditor’s 2018 report, covering the 2017 fiscal year, hasn’t been finalized yet, said spokeswoman Jessi Adler.
The university’s internal audit department and trustees didn’t respond for comment.