Skip to main content

Michigan State University agreed to pay $500-million to settle claims from more than 300 women and girls who said they were assaulted by sports doctor Larry Nassar in the worst sex-abuse case in sports history, officials announced Wednesday.

The deal surpasses the $100-million-plus paid by Penn State University to settle claims by at least 35 people who accused assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky of sexual abuse, though the Nassar deal involves far more victims.

“We are truly sorry to all the survivors and their families for what they have been through, and we admire the courage it has taken to tell their stories,” said Brian Breslin, chairman of Michigan State’s governing board. “We recognize the need for change on our campus and in our community around sexual-assault awareness and prevention.”

Story continues below advertisement

It’s not clear how much each victim will receive, although the money will not be divided equally. It’s also unclear where the money will come from. University spokeswoman Emily Guerrant said school leaders will now work on a way to pay the bill.

Rachael Denhollander of Louisville, Ky., who in 2016 was the first woman to publicly identify herself as a victim, said the agreement “reflects the incredible damage which took place on MSU’s campus.” But she said she still has not seen any “meaningful reform” at the university.

Nassar treated campus athletes and scores of young gymnasts at his Michigan State office, building an international reputation while working at the same time for USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians.

The university and lawyers for 332 victims announced the deal after negotiating privately with the help of a mediator. Under the agreement, $425-million will be paid to current claimants and $75-million will be set aside for any future claims. Lawyers will also be compensated out of the $500-million pool.

Michigan State was accused of ignoring or dismissing complaints about Nassar, some as far back as the 1990s. The school had insisted that no one covered up assaults, although Nassar’s boss, former medical school dean William Strampel, was later charged with failing to properly supervise him and committing his own sexual misconduct.

Nassar, 54, pleaded guilty to molesting women and girls under the guise of treatment and was caught with child pornography. He is serving three prison sentences that will likely keep him locked up for life.

More than 250 women and girls gave statements in court when Nassar was sentenced in January and February. Since that time, even more accusers have stepped forward, which accounts for the larger number of people covered by the Michigan State agreement.

Story continues below advertisement

Nassar’s assaults were mostly committed in Michigan at his Lansing-area home, campus clinic and area gyms. But his accusers also said he molested them at a gymnastics-training ranch in Texas and at national and international competitions. Nassar’s work far away from campus was spelled out in his employment contract with Michigan State.

During the sentencing hearings, many accusers described an ultracompetitive gymnastics culture in which authority figures could not be questioned and Nassar was free to abuse young patients year after year. They said they had little choice to see doctors other than Nassar, who was renowned throughout the sport.

He counted on his charm and reputation to deflect any questions. He was so brazen that he sometimes molested patients in front of their parents, shielding the young girls with his body or a sheet. His clinic was decorated with signed photos of Olympic stars, bolstering his credentials to star-struck athletes and their families.

Olympic gold medallists Jordyn Wieber, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas and McKayla Maroney say they were among Nassar’s victims.

Other cases involved participants in soccer, figure skating, rowing, softball, cheerleading, wrestling, diving, dance, and track and field.

“This historic settlement came about through the bravery of more than 300 women and girls who had the courage to stand up and refuse to be silenced,” said John Manly, the lead attorney for the victims.

Story continues below advertisement

The scandal rocked Michigan State, leading to the resignation of President Lou Anna Simon on Jan. 24 and athletic director Mark Hollis two days later. The fallout has also pushed out many leaders at the top of competitive gymnastics.

The school has about 39,000 undergraduate students. Its general fund budget is $1.36-billion. Roughly $983-million comes from tuition and fees, and $281-million is from the state.

The settlement applies only to Michigan State. Lawsuits are still pending against Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic Committee and an elite gymnastics club in the Lansing-area.

Report an error
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

If your comment doesn't appear immediately it has been sent to a member of our moderation team for review

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.