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East Lansing — On the eve of Larry Nassar’s sentencing, the NCAA announced it intends to investigate the Michigan State athletics department and what role it might have had in the former doctor’s assault of more than 100 young women, some of those Michigan State athletes.

The NCAA said it has asked Michigan State University for information on any potential violation of its rules in a letter emailed to the school Tuesday.

The letter of inquiry was received by Michigan State on Tuesday, and on Wednesday, athletic director Mark Hollis issued a statement.

“Since my first day on the job as athletic director, my focus has always been on the student-athlete,” Hollis said in the statement. “They are at the core of our athletic department mission statement. Our first priority has always been and will always be their health and safety. In regards to the letter we received from the NCAA last night, the athletic compliance and university general counsel offices are preparing a comprehensive response. Michigan State University will cooperate with any investigation.”

The delivery of the letter was confirmed Tuesday night by MSU spokesman Jason Cody and the NCAA followed with its own statement.

“The NCAA has sent a letter of inquiry to Michigan State University regarding potential NCAA rules violations related to the assaults Larry Nassar perpetrated against girls and young women, including some student-athletes at Michigan State. We will have no further comment at this time,” the NCAA statement said.

What sort of penalty Michigan State could be facing is unclear at this point.

According to NCAA bylaws, “It is the responsibility of each member institution to protect the health of and provide a safe environment for each of its participating student-athletes.”

The case has brought up comparisons to Penn State, where former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted in 2012 on 45 counts of sexually abusing young boys. It also resulted in the resignation of university president Graham Spanier and the termination of athletic director Tim Curley and head football coach Joe Paterno.

On July 23, 2012, the NCAA imposed a $60 million fine, four-year postseason ban, scholarship reductions from 85 to 65, and vacated all victories from 1998 to 2011 for the Penn State football program. However, debate continued over the NCAA’s penalties and in 2014, the NCAA rescinded the postseason ban, restored scholarships, and re-credited Penn State and Paterno with their victories from 1998 to 2011.

The news of the NCAA investigation of MSU comes five days after a Detroit News investigation found that reports of sexual misconduct by Dr. Larry Nassar reached at least 14 university representatives in the two decades before his arrest. No fewer than eight women reported his actions.

Nassar, 54, was sentenced on Wednesday to 40-175 years in prison.

matt.charboneau@detroitnews.com

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