Contract expired, Mel Pearson remains Michigan's hockey coach
Michigan hockey coach Mel Pearson remains as head coach despite his original five-year contract expiring Saturday without an extension in place.
It is unusual for a head coach to work without a contract, which has led to speculation about Pearson’s future at Michigan. There’s also the added weight of an outside law firm, hired by the university, investigating multiple allegations of misconduct within the hockey program.
In February, university spokesman Rick Fitzgerald wrote in a statement to The Detroit News that he would neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation because it is the school’s policy not to comment. But Pearson confirmed the investigation to the Michigan Daily, the school newspaper.
Pearson attended Michigan-related graduation functions over the weekend.
“Mel Pearson is the head coach at the University of Michigan,” Kurt Svoboda, Michigan associate athletic director for public relations told The Detroit News on Sunday. “I’ve been assuring that once a contract is finalized, we will communicate that.”
Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel could not be reached Sunday for comment. After the Wolverines’ Frozen Four loss last month in Boston, he did not want to be interviewed but when asked about Pearson's contract status, he told The News, “He’ll be fine."
Pearson, 63, also could not be reached for comment. Along with several other Michigan head coaches, he attended the department’s “Student-athlete graduation celebration” last Friday night. Svoboda said Pearson was working Sunday.
He was a longtime Michigan assistant under Red Berenson before becoming head coach at Michigan Tech for six seasons. He was Manuel’s first hire as athletic director, replacing Berenson in April 2017.
In five seasons as head coach with the Wolverines, Pearson has guided the team to two Frozen Fours and three NCAA Tournament appearances in total, including the COVID-related forfeit in 2021. The 2020 NCAA Tournament was canceled because of COVID. The Wolverines, loaded with NHL talent, fell as the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed to Denver in the NCAA Frozen Four’s first national semifinal game last month.
When Pearson confirmed the investigation to the Daily, he said the “truth” will be revealed and he felt “confident that the allegations will be proved wrong.”
The investigation's scope includes multiple allegations of workplace misconduct, including Title IX violations, a toxic workplace culture and discrimination against female staffers, and lying about COVID-19 protocols. Last year, the Wolverines were forced to withdraw from the NCAA Tournament because of positive COVID-19 results.
This season, COVID-19 cases, injuries and several players competing in the eventually canceled World Juniors depleted Michigan's roster. Despite playing a game before to Michigan Tech, Michigan canceled a game the next day against top-10 ranked Western Michigan. Critics accused Michigan of ducking the Broncos.