EAST LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis announced his retirement Friday, the second university official to step down this week amid sharp criticism over the school's handling of sexual abuse allegations against disgraced former sports doctor Larry Nassar.
Hollis, who had been in the job for 10 years, disclosed the move during a meeting with a small group of reporters on campus. He was asked why he would not stay on.
"Because I care," Hollis said, holding back tears. "When you look at the scope of everything, that's the reason I made a choice to retire now. And I hope that has a little bit, a little bit, of helping that healing process."
Michigan State President Lou Anna Simon submitted her resignation late Wednesday, hours after Nassar, a former employee at Michigan State, was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison for molesting young girls and women under the guise of medical treatment. Several of the 150-plus victims who spoke at his hearing were former athletes at the school, and many victims accused the university of mishandling past complaints about Nassar, who also is accused of molesting Olympians and other young gymnasts while working for USA Gymnastics.
"I don't believe that I've ever met him," Hollis said of Nassar, and he insisted he didn't know about allegation of abuse until an Indianapolis Star report in 2016.
Michigan State's governing board was meeting later Friday, its first since Simon and Hollis stepped down. Trustees planned to discuss the presidential transition, as the university prepares for new investigations by the state attorney general, state lawmakers and the NCAA while facing lawsuits filed by more than 130 women and girls.
The board expressed support for Simon before her resignation, but she faced pressure from many students, faculty and legislators. While there has been no evidence that Simon knew Nassar was sexually abusing girls and women, some of the more than 150 women and girls who have accused him said they complained to university employees as far back as the late 1990s.
Board members, who are elected in statewide votes, have come under intense scrutiny. Two announced they will not seek re-election. Another, Joel Ferguson, apologized this week after saying there was more going on at Michigan State than "this Nassar thing." He previously had said victims were ambulance chasers out for a payday. The school long resisted calls for an independent investigation before asking Attorney General Bill Schuette for a review a week ago.
"I am shocked and embarrassed at how insensitive some in the MSU family continue to be," trustee Mitch Lyons said on Twitter. "I look forward to implementing a plan today at our board meeting to create real change."
Students planned a Friday evening march and protest.
In a recent filing, Michigan State asked a judge to dismiss the cases against the university on several technical grounds, not the merits of the allegations. The school says it has immunity under Michigan law and that the majority of victims were not MSU students at the time of the alleged assaults.
"These arguments can seem disrespectful" to victims, but a defense is required by Michigan State's insurers, Simon wrote in a campus-wide email last week. She added, "We have the utmost respect and sympathy" for victims.
The board last month authorized the creation of a $10 million fund to help victims access counseling and mental health services.