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MSU athletic director Bill Beekman speaks about challenges, changes after the board of trustees unanimously approved his contract Tuesday. Beth LeBlanc, The Detroit News

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East Lansing — The Michigan State University Board of Trustees approved a contract Tuesday with Athletic Director Bill Beekman.

Unlike recent, tumultuous board meetings, trustees’ approval of Beekman’s contract occurred with little protest or controversy. Few people attended the brief meeting.

Board members voiced their support and congratulations for Beekman, a 20-year employee who in recent years has acted as secretary to the board of trustees.

“I think the world of Bill Beekman,” Trustee Joel Ferguson said during the meeting. “This is just a great thing for Michigan State. We couldn’t find a better person for this job.”

MSU Interim President John Engler said competitors had “hoped for turmoil at Michigan State,” and wanted to see the university “flail about.”

“They’re disappointed today,” Engler said during the meeting.

Beekman has served as the university’s interim athletic director since February, and had been the secretary to the board of trustees prior to that. His salary as interim athletic director was $400,000 a year.

MSU would not provide details Tuesday on Beekman's new salary as athletic director or the duration of his contract. MSU spokeswoman Emily Guerrant said the information would be in Beekman's contract, which is expected to be released Wednesday.

Creating a positive culture and continuing the university's athletic success are some of the challenges Beekman anticipates in his role as athletic director, he said. He didn’t anticipate any major changes from the way Hollis ran athletics, but acknowledged he and his predecessor are different.

“Mark Hollis was an extraordinary athletic director, and he did tremendous work,” Beekman told reporters after the meeting. “We’re certainly very different people. Mark’s much more extroverted. I’m probably far more comfortable in front of a spreadsheet than in front of all of you.”

Engler named Beekman athletic director after saying in February that the school would conduct a national search that would include no internal candidates, a decision that bothered at least one faculty member in attendance Tuesday.

The hiring process lacked transparency and accountability, faculty member Anna Pegler-Gordon said.

“That’s what a lot of people within the university are really seeking right now and that’s exactly what this search process doesn’t do,” Pegler-Gordon said. “Bill Beekman may be the best person for the job, but we don’t know that unless we have a national search.”  

Beekman assumed the role of interim director following the retirement of former athletic director Hollis. Hollis stepped down in late January, days after MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon resigned after the Ingham County sentencing of former MSU sports medicine doctor Larry Nassar, who was accused of molesting hundreds of girls while working for MSU and USA Gymnastics.

Beekman is from outside of the athletic department, Engler said after Tuesday’s meeting, and was hired in large part because of the respect and support he garnered from other Big Ten athletic directors and Michigan State’s 25 head coaches.

“The conclusion was we could search the country and not find anybody that would be better than Bill,” Engler said.

Engler said the complaints he's heard about Beekman's hiring have come from the press, and he believes "some of the disappointment is being unable to cover a big search that went on for years."

Prior to becoming MSU vice president and board secretary, Beekman was executive director of the MSU Alumni Association, senior adviser to the provost and assistant dean of finance in the College of Human Medicine.

He obtained his undergraduate degree from James Madison College at MSU, his MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and his juris doctorate from Wayne State University Law School.

eleblanc@detroitnews.com

(517) 371-3661  

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