Michigan State's Bill Beekman to step down as athletic director

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Change, once again, is coming to Michigan State’s athletic department.

Just more than three years after taking over as athletic director, Bill Beekman is stepping down to assume a new role within the university’s administration as vice president for strategic initiatives, President Samuel Stanley announced on Thursday.

Bill Beekman

“I have been honored to serve as athletic director at Michigan State, and I thank the Board of Trustees and our administration for this opportunity,” Beekman said in a statement. “While we’ve experienced the most challenging 18 months in the history of college athletics, we’ve pushed forward on many fronts, laying the groundwork for the future. Great things are ahead for Michigan State athletics. I’m also excited for this new role in the administrative team as the vice president for strategic initiatives, working with President Stanley to drive our great university forward.”

The move comes the same day the Michigan State football team held its first practice of the season and as the entire athletics department heads into the 2021-22 season continuing to battle the affects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Beekman was named Michigan State’s 19th athletic director in July of 2018 after first serving as interim athletic director, a post he assumed in February of the same year after the retirement of Mark Hollis. The moves came in the midst of the Larry Nassar scandal that also led to the resignation of then-President Lou Anna K. Simon.

It marked the first time Beekman served in athletic administration. He had been the vice president and secretary of the Board of Trustees since 2008 after serving in various roles at his alma mater since 1995, including executive director of the MSU Alumni Association, senior adviser to the provost and assistant dean for finance in the College of Human Medicine.

“Bill stepped in to help our athletic department during a time of turmoil and change, and we thank him for that,” Stanley said in a statement. "That department is in a better place now and ready to look for long-term leadership to propel us to a new, nationally leading level. With his skills and extensive institutional knowledge, I feel Bill is an ideal fit for this new strategic initiatives role."

Michigan State will use a national search firm as it seeks Beekman’s replacement. He will continue to serve as athletic director until his successor is found and will begin the transition to his new role in the fall, the university said.

Beekman’s contract, which runs through July 31, 2023, pays him $750,000 annually but also added that if he were terminated other than for cause he would be assigned as “Vice President and Senior Consultant to the Offices of the Provost and the Executive Vice President for Administrative Services Finance,” at 50% of his salary, which would amount to $375,000 annually.

During Beekman’s time leading the athletic department, Michigan State won seven Big Ten championships and had three top-four finishes nationally with men’s basketball reaching the 2019 Final Four, a College Cup berth for men’s soccer in 2018, and a fourth-place showing by women’s cross country at the NCAA Championships in 2021.

Tom Izzo, whose men's basketball team captured three Big Ten titles with Beekman at the helm, praised Beekman's performance.

"I want to thank Bill for all of his hard work and support to Michigan State athletics over the last three years," Izzo said in a statement. "Bill is a Spartan through and through and has been a great supporter of me, my program and all of our coaches and student-athletes. He provided a stabilizing presence for our department during a difficult time on our campus and I know all of us thank him for his work. I wish him the very best as he moves forward and know that he will always be a Spartan."

In addition to on-field success, Michigan State posted the highest cumulative GPA in athletic department history — 3.3051 — in the spring 2021 semester while a record-tying 20 teams posted a 3.0 or higher cumulative GPA in spring 2021. Beekman also hired four head coaches during his tenure — Mel Tucker in football, Lisa Breznau in cross country and track and field, Jeff Hosler in women’s soccer and Kim Chavers in rowing.

Beekman also faced significant economic issues, stating in May that Michigan State’s athletic budget would face a deficit of $30 million. This came after Michigan State landed a $32 million donation from Mat Ishbia, the former basketball player who is CEO at United Wholesale Mortgage. It marked the largest single-cash commitment from an individual in university history.

Of course, Beekman also was at the forefront of the decision to eliminate men’s and women’s swimming and diving following the 2021 season. He had agreed in May to meet with representatives from the swimming and diving team to explore ways to save the program, but that meeting never took place.

Battle for Spartan Swimming and Diving, the group pushing to save the program, said Thursday’s announcement was positive for Michigan State.

“The Battle for Spartan Swimming and Diving is optimistic about the future of Michigan State athletics after today’s announcement and looks forward to working with the incoming athletic director,” a statement provided to The News read. “With our biggest obstacle removed, we are more committed than ever to bring back the swimming and diving program for its 100th season. We will continue to impress upon MSU’s leaders the value of reinstating both teams, and how our proposed solutions will not only save and sustain swimming and diving, but also provide a model for supporting all Spartan Olympic sports into the future.

“This is a good day for Michigan State athletics, and we are eager for a future focused on building and growing — starting with MSU swimming and diving.”


Twitter: @mattcharboneau