Mark Hollis says he acted swiftly in suspending Kathie Klages

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis hugs his wife Nancy after announcing his retirement.

East Lansing – Mark Hollis resigned as Michigan State’s athletic director on Friday, and during his announcement he reiterated what he has told investigators – he was unaware of any complaints about Dr. Larry Nassar before a September 2016 report in the Indianapolis Star.

One person who did, however, was gymnastics coach Kathie Klages. A Detroit News investigation revealed a complaint was made to Klages about the former doctor in 1997. By February of this year, Klages was holding team meetings saying MSU gymnasts should do what they could to support Nassar.

News of that meeting was what led Hollis to suspend Klages on Feb. 13. She retired the next day.

Some have criticized Hollis for not firing Klages. On Friday, Hollis was asked about the conversation he had with Klages.

“The conversation with Kathie Klages occurred following the allegation of some comments that were made in a meeting in September of 2016 that pertained to her being extremely vocal in her support for (Nassar) to the point of asking student-athletes to write sympathy cards,” Hollis said. “When I was given that information by our general counsel and as a result of the police investigation, the conversation was very short (when I suspended her).”

Nassar was sentenced this week to up to 175 years for sexually assaulting more than 150 young women, some of them Michigan State students and student-athletes. In the wake of his sentencing, MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon resigned on Wednesday, followed by Hollis on Friday.

Klages was believed to be the first person to receive a complaint about Nassar. Back in 1997, then 16-year-old Larissa Boyce went to Klages. Then a student at Williamston High, Boyce began seeing Nassar after hurting her back in a youth gymnastics program at MSU.

Nassar put his fingers inside Boyce during weekly visits with him at his university office, and in a room near where the gymnasts practiced at Jenison Fieldhouse.

After a long appointment with Nassar at Jenison, a coach asked Boyce what was happening during that time. Boyce told the coach, who insisted that Boyce tell Klages, then MSU’s head gymnastics coach.

Boyce doesn’t remember the name of the female coach who approached her. But she still remembers the green carpet in Klages’ office and telling her Nassar had been “fingering” her during visits. She also felt intimidated and humiliated, and remembers what Klages said about filing a report.

“She said, ‘I can file this, but there are going to be serious consequences for you and Nassar,’” Boyce said. “I said I didn’t want to get anyone in trouble.”