Kathie Klages, the Michigan State University gymnastics coach, has retired after 27 years at Michigan State University and one day after being suspended by the school.
The school did not initially explain the reason behind the suspension, but said today it had to do with Klages handling of controversy surrounding a lawsuit by athletes against Dr. Larry Nassar and MSU.
Nassar was a prominent doctor who worked with many athletes at MSU and for USA Gymnastics. Nassar faces state charges for sexually assaulting a patient, federal charges for child pornography, and was fired by MSU in late 2016 after questions about his conduct.
In a series of civil lawsuits against Nassar, more than two dozen women accuse Nassar of sexually probing them with his hands. Several of the plaintiffs are also suing MSU, accusing the school of failing to act on complaints against him.
MSU says it never heard any complaints against Nassar until 2014, and that they investigated and acted after that complaint.
But several of those plaintiffs say in court documents they they told Klages as far back as the late 1990’s that Nassar abused them, and accuse her of failing to act on their complaints.
Klages, who has not responded to numerous requests for comment from 6 News, spoke out for the first time today through an attorney, and denies the allegations in the lawsuits.
A statement from Shirlee Bobryk says Klages is not named as a defendant in the lawsuits and “is deeply disturbed by the recent allegations and lawsuits” and that “she is extremely distressed by the accusations that have been made about her creating any sort of impediment to gymnasts reporting complaints of criminal sexual conduct or sexually inappropriate behavior.”
The statement goes on to say Klages “would never do anything to put any of them in harm’s way” and that “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.”
It also says Klages is retiring because she believes it’s in “everyone’s best interests.”
In a letter to Klages dated today (February 14), MSU Athletic Director Mark Hollis says Klages – during a September meeting with her gymnastics team – “shared with the team your highly emotional sense of shock regarding the allegations against Dr. Nassar” and that “your passionate defense of Dr. Nassar created an emotionally charged environment for the team.”
The letter says says her behavior prompted the suspension, and that he understood her desire to retire “effective immediately.”
Hollis also says that Klages assured him that she will “continue to cooperate fully with any law enforcement or University investigations regarding Dr. Nassar.”
And in her statement, Klages’ attorney says her client “has and will continue to cooperate fully in all ongoing investigations and lawsuits” and that she “looks forward to being able to testify under oath and fully answer all questions that relate to any involvement she is alleged to have had in the situation.”
6 News has reached out to Klages on several occasions, but have not heard back from her.
Nassar says he’s not guilty of the charges against him at the state and federal levels.