UM to pay gymnastics coach fired in Nassar backlash $15K

The Detroit News
Rhonda Faehn

Rhonda Faehn's tenure as a consultant to the University of Michigan gymnastics program lasted just a matter of days, but the former USA Gymnastics official will be paid $15,000 under her since-terminated contract.

Faehn's hiring, announced Saturday, drew a torrent of criticism over her response to reports of sexual abuse by convicted predator Larry Nassar while at USAG. UM rescinded her hiring Sunday, but associate athletic director Kurt Svoboda said Monday she will be paid a month's salary under her contract.

"Rhonda Faehn's contract called for her to earn $15,000 per month. Per the agreement, UM maintained the right to end the consulting agreement on 30 days' notice," Svoboda said in an email. "As such, Ms. Faehn will be due her stated compensation for the month." 

In a statement announcing Faehn's termination, UM Athletic Director Warde Manuel said the university should not have hired her.

"It was the wrong decision, and I apologize," Manuel wrote on the Athletic Department website, Our student-athletes are our highest priority and I want to do everything in my power to support them fully and put the focus back on their athletic performance."

The hiring had been heavily criticized by alumni and at least two regents.

"Much to my chagrin, I learned of this employment decision this past Saturday morning," Regent Denise Ilitch said in a statement. "I appreciate the wise observations made by many and share their disappointment. There will be further review of this matter."

Faehn started working as a consultant in a coaching capacity during the team’s trip to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on Thursday and was to have continued with the team through 2019, the Athletic Department said in a news release Saturday afternoon.

Faehn joined 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 Saturday 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."

Faehn, a former U.S. 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 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.