MSU kept ties with volleyball coach accused of sex abuse for decades
MSU, already under scrutiny for its handling of the sexual abuse allegations against ex-MSU and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, has kept its ties with Rick Butler, a prominent volleyball coach publicly accused of sexually abusing and raping teenage athletes in the 1980s, for decades, according to a report from The New York Times.
Butler, founder of Sports Performance Volleyball, a training facility in Aurora, Illinois, was publicly accused in 1995 of sexually abusing and raping six underage girls.
According to letters to the Associated Press from advocates for Butler's accusers, MSU has been under pressure to cut ties with Butler for at least a year.
Cathy George, MSU's head volleyball coach, used to work for Sports Performance Volleyball. Since becoming MSU's head volleyball coach in 2005, most of George's teams have included one or more players who were trained by Butler. MSU's website lists athletes who were trained by Butler or at Sports Performance.
Sarah Powers-Barnhard, owner and director of Powers Volleyball Club and one of the first accusers of Butler told the Associated Press that George called her after the allegations against Butler emerged in 1995. She said George expressed sympathy but said she could not refuse to deal with Butler and recruit athletes from him.
Powers-Barnhard told the Associated Press that Butler molested her hundreds of times during a period of two years, starting when she was only 16 and he was around 30.
She said MSU has "turned a blind eye" to Butler's history, according to the Associated Press.
MSU has also held exhibition games at Butler's facilities for several consecutive years, at least through 2014, according to online records obtained by the Associated Press.
MSU Vice President and University Spokesperson Emily Guerrant and MSU's Communications and Brand Strategy could not be contacted to respond to MSU's connection with Butler at the time of publication.
According to Butler's accusers, if they did not accept his sexual advances, he would threaten to use his influence and position to thwart college prospects.
“Coaches are afraid that if they don’t show deference to Butler, he’ll steer recruits to other schools,” Kay Rogness, who helped establish Sports Performance, told the Associated Press.
Butler has never been criminally charged and has denied allegations against him.
In December, USA Volleyball banned Butler from its events for life and the Amateur Athletic Union took away his membership early this year. According to the Associated Press, both USA Volleyball and the Amateur Athletic Union took action after pressure from some of the same activists now pressing MSU to cut connections with Butler.