Former USA Gymnastics official joins UM's women's gymnastics staff

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News
Rhonda Faehn

A former USA Gymnastics senior official who left the organization during the fallout from the Larry Nassar scandal, has been hired by the University of Michigan as a consultant for the women's gymnastics team.

The university announced the hire of Rhonda Faehn on Saturday afternoon, hours after the news was first reported by the Michigan Daily, the school's student newspaper.

Faehn started working as a consultant in a coaching capacity during the team’s trip to Tuscaloosa, Alabama on Thursday and will continue with the team through 2019, the athletic department said in a news release issued at 3:45 p.m. Saturday.

Faehn joins UM's coaching staff three months after assistant gymnastics coach Scott Vetere resigned amid allegations of indecent public conduct.

"Following a comprehensive search process working closely with our administration, I am pleased to add Rhonda Faehn to our staff," head coach Bev Plocki, said in the news release. "I have known and respected Rhonda Faehn for over two decades. Her accomplishments in our sport speak for themselves. Her technical knowledge and experience will greatly benefit our student-athletes."

More:Latest coverage: Larry Nassar scandal roils MSU

Faehn, a former US national team member in the 1980s who later won three titles as head coach at the University of Florida, joined USA Gymnastics in 2015 and oversaw the women’s elite program. Shortly after taking over she was alerted to potential abuse concerns about Larry Nassar, a longtime team physician. Faehn passed along the concerns to then USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny. Faehn was removed from USA Gymnastics in May

The organization then conducted an internal investigation before removing Nassar and going to federal authorities. USA Gymnastics did not alert Michigan State, where Nassar was a faculty member, or a club in Michigan affiliated with Nassar.

Nassar, 54, pleaded guilty to molesting women and girls under the guise of treatment and was caught with child pornography. He is serving three prison sentences that will likely keep him locked up for life.

Warde Manuel, the university's Donald R. Shepherd Director of Athletics, said he supported her appointment only after a thorough review of her career and involvement with USA Gymnastics. 

"The well-being and safety of our student-athletes is always our highest priority,” Manuel said in the statement. “Our current student-athletes had a prominent voice throughout this search process to provide their perspective. This included a meeting between me and the captains before a final decision was made.

"After our exhaustive due diligence, we felt comfortable that coach Faehn reported all information available to her regarding Larry Nassar and that she cooperated fully, including voluntarily participating in all investigations and offering testimony before Congress. Neither an internal investigation by USA Gymnastics or a criminal investigation by the FBI have assigned culpability or resulted in any charges against her."

Faehn led the University of Florida gymnastics program to three straight NCAA championships from 2013-2015, 10 top-five NCAA finishes and four SEC conference titles. She was the 2007 NACGC National Coach of the Year. Most recently, Faehn worked as senior vice president for the USA Gymnastics women's program from 2015-2018.

"I am heartened at the outpouring of support that I received this weekend," Faehn said in the statement. "I am thrilled to join the University of Michigan and am appreciative of the careful consideration demonstrated by the administration. I am excited to work with these young women and am thankful for their enthusiastic support."

Before becoming the head coach at Florida in 2002, Faehn worked as an associate head coach and assistant coach at Nebraska for four seasons. She also has coached at Maryland as an assistant coach from 1997 to 1998 and at UCLA as a student assistant coach from 1992-1994.

She graduated from UCLA in 1994 with a bachelor's degree in history. She was an alternate on the 1988 U.S. Olympic team, a two-time U.S. vault champion and member of the U.S. national team from 1985-1988.

Many took to Twitter Saturday saying the Ann Arbor university's move was not in support of victims. 

"Could be incredibly problematic if U-M hired Rhonda Faehn on the low-low.. we'll need some answers," wrote alumni Drew VanDres. "With all the awful news coming out of Michigan State & USA Gymnastics, we should be staying as far away as possible while doing what we can to support victims."

John Manly, a lawyer who represents some of the Nassar victims, took to Twitter Saturday sharing, "This has become surreal. Apparently, Michigan’s public University’s are governed and run by misogynistic clowns.

"Warde Manuel should talk to the countless girls and women molested in Michigan in 15 & 16 after Faehn knew Nassar was a child molester. Explain your decision to them Sir."
Twitter: @SarahRahal_