Thursday, April 15, 2021

MSU gymnastics coach Klages retires amid Nassar scandal, lawsuit

February 16, 2017
Head coach Kathie Klages keeps track of the time during a match against Pittsburgh Saturday at Jenison Field House. The MSU gymnastics team won with a score of 193.875-193.475. Jaclyn McNeal/The State News
Head coach Kathie Klages keeps track of the time during a match against Pittsburgh Saturday at Jenison Field House. The MSU gymnastics team won with a score of 193.875-193.475. Jaclyn McNeal/The State News —
Photo by Jaclyn McNeal | and Jaclyn McNeal The State News

Klages was the longest-tenured head coach at MSU, in her 27th year. She was named Big Ten Coach of the Year three times.

Klages has been named in two motions in a lawsuit against former MSU employee Larry Nassar. The motions allege that Klages was aware of allegations of sexual abuse against Nassar as early as 1997.

Nassar is accused of sexually abusing patients in his role as a doctor, including MSU student-athletes and members of the U.S. Women’s Olympic Gymnastics Team.

One motion alleges a plaintiff identified as Jane BMSU Doe told Klages she had concerns about her treatments with Nassar “sometime in late 1997 to mid 1998.”

Klages allegedly told the plaintiff she could file a report, but the report “would have serious consequences” for both Jane BMSU Doe and Nassar.

Klages allegedly called Nassar to warn him about the conversation. When Jane BMSU Doe showed up to her appointment with Nassar later that day, he told her she didn’t understand the treatment and allegedly performed the “procedure” again.

Representatives from MSU allegedly told “potential victims” not to speak with the police or the media, and suggested “that athletes’ personal cellular phone would be checked for police or media contact,” according to court documents.

Another motion alleges a plaintiff identified as Jane IMSU Doe, a participant in Spartan youth gymnastics, refused treatment from Nassar, but he held her down and “performed the ‘procedure’ against (her) will.”

When Klages was informed of the incident, she allegedly told Jane IMSU Doe that “there is no reason to bring up Nassar’s conduct.”

MSU policy would have mandated Klages to report incidents of sexual assault in the university community.

Klages’ attorney, Shirlee Bobryk, denies Klages was informed of Nassar’s alleged sexual abuse of his patients.

“Had she ever received any information to cast doubt on the appropriateness of that trust in Dr. Nassar, she would have reacted immediately to protect her gymnasts,” Bobryk said in a statement provided to the Lansing State Journal.

When asked to comment on Klages’ retirement, Bobryk confirmed that The State News is a student publication and then said, “I choose not to talk to you.”

Klages’ retirement came one day after she was suspended with pay by the university. In a letter to Klages, MSU Athletic Director Mark Hollis said Klages’ “passionate defense of Dr. Nassar created an emotionally charged environment for the team.”

Mike Rowe, formerly an assistant coach with the University of Pittsburgh, will serve as interim head coach for the gymnastics team. In the early-2000s, Rowe worked as a coach and choreographer at Lansing gymnastics club Geddert’s Twistars-USA.

Twistars is named as a defendant in a lawsuit against Nassar. Nassar worked with Twistars gymnasts from 1996 to 2016, and multiple assaults allegedly took place on the premises.

A parent allegedly complained about Nassar’s conduct to Twistars owner John Geddert in 1998, though the allegations were never addressed, according to court documents.

Klages intends to “cooperate fully with any law enforcement or University investigations regarding Dr. Nassar,” according to Hollis’ letter to Klages.

MSU Director of New Media Matt Larson confirmed Klages’ retirement via email.

Discussion

Share and discuss “MSU gymnastics coach Klages retires amid Nassar scandal, lawsuit” on social media.