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Michigan State president resigns over sex abuse scandal, but not because of a cover-up

Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon answers a question last week after being confronted by former MSU gymnast Lidsey Lemke during a break in the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar who has been accused of molesting more than 100 girls while he was a physician for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

On the same day former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced for criminal sexual conduct, Michigan State University announced that President Lou Anna Simon was resigning.

Why did she step down?

Simon, in her statement, cited the growing amount of negative publicity aimed at the university, and her specifically.

“As Nassar’s legal journey to prison was drawing to a close, more and more negative attention was focused on Michigan State University, and on me,” Simon said. “… This is an important step toward providing more assurance to the university community and to the public.”

That negative publicity is a result of numerous women attacking Simon and MSU during their victim impact statements at Nassar’s sentencing hearing.

“I don’t know how you can still call yourself a president, because I don’t anymore,” said former MSU gymnast Lindsey Lemke. “You are no president of mine. … You say you aren’t responsible for this. I wish you would come up to this podium and be half as brave as all of us have had to be the past year and a half.

“To be brave enough to come up here and confidently tell us the reason why you don’t think that you are responsible.”

More trouble on the horizon

Michigan State could be in for further punishment, as the NCAA formally opened an investigation into the school’s handling of Nassar and allegations against him over the years.

“Larry Nassar’s heinous crimes of record against more than 150 victims raise serious concerns about institutional practices, student-athlete safety and the institution’s actions to protect individuals from his behavior,” the letter of inquiry read.

This is, however, dangerous territory for the NCAA, which has been criticized in the past for overstepping its authority.

When the NCAA sanctioned Penn State University after it was discovered that a former coach had sexually abused children on campus for years, many of the penalties were later rescinded, causing embarrassment to the NCAA.

The NCAA often finds itself hindered by the narrow scope of its governing bylaws, which are limited outside of issues that directly impact competitive fairness.

This was illustrated when the NCAA failed to bring any sanctions against the University of North Carolina, even after it was discovered that student-athletes had been getting credit for fraudulent classes.  Because the classes were taken by the general student population as well as by student-athletes, it fell outside the realm of an NCAA violation.

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