New AD taking charge at Michigan St: 'We must do better'
By NOAH TRISTER
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) The new athletic director at Michigan State faces issues beyond just trying to win games and compete for championships.
That much is obvious, and Bill Beekman acknowledged it.
"The last several years have been among the darkest in our history," Beekman said. "Among the over 300 survivors who came forward that were subject to Larry Nassar's horrific acts, over 30 were MSU students, and several of those students were student-athletes. We must do better and we will."
Michigan State officially introduced Beekman as its AD on Monday, giving him the job he has held on an interim basis since early February. John Engler, Michigan State's interim president, said he is confident Beekman will bring "success and honor" to the athletic department - and it's the latter of those two goals that will likely shape the perception of this hire in the years to come.
Beekman took over on an interim basis shortly after athletic director Mark Hollis retired following the sex abuse scandal involving Nassar - and just before ESPN reported allegations of sexual assault and violence against women involving Michigan State football and basketball players. The report questioned how the athletic department handled those cases.
"We have improved and increased training at all levels. We've developed policies to ensure the availability of, and access to, chaperones for our students when they visit medical professionals, and we've reviewed all reporting protocols - to name just a few measures that we've taken," Beekman said. "But all the rules in the world won't make a difference, unless we have a culture committed to the health, safety and wellness of every member of our community."
Engler appointed Beekman as interim AD on Feb. 5. Engler said no internal candidates would be considered for the AD job, but Beekman's ties to Michigan State run deep. The 51-year-old Beekman has an undergraduate degree from the school and joined Michigan State as an administrator in 1995. Beekman has been executive director of the MSU Alumni Association. He has also been a vice president of the school and secretary of its board.
Engler said in the end, the school didn't need to conduct a national search for the job.
"As we started talking about the search, I kept hearing from virtually everyone that they loved the job that Bill's doing," Engler said. "Bill was described as, first and foremost, a person of great integrity, very attentive, a terrific listener, someone who really knows the university. I had several people remark of Bill's calming influence."
What Beekman clearly lacked - at least until the last few months - was experience running a major athletic department. He said his only personal involvement in competitive athletics was with his high school cross country team.
"He's initially coming from the outside of athletics in a way, but as you look around the country, that's getting to be pretty common now," Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo said. "I think there's no question he has the skills to be a successful AD."
Izzo, football coach Mark Dantonio and women's basketball coach Suzy Merchant all spoke at Monday's news conference.
Beekman will be in charge of an athletic department that's enjoyed plenty of success lately, especially as Dantonio's football program has grown in stature and become a legitimate complement to Izzo's nationally prominent basketball team. But the scandal involving Nassar, the former sports doctor who worked at Michigan State, has overshadowed much of that. Lou Anna Simon, the school's previous president, quit in January, and Engler's time in charge has been contentious .
Engler was asked about those who would say the school needs fresh leadership for hires like these.
"We've got that in Bill Beekman. He's fresh, he's new, he's not been here in the department before," Engler said. "He comes in with a great background to make the kind of changes that are necessary, but no wedded-to-the-past approach on Bill's part."
Nassar is serving decades in prison for assault and child pornography crimes. Hundreds of women, including Olympic champion gymnasts, said they were abused by Nassar under the guise of medical treatment while he was working for both USA Gymnastics and Michigan State. An attorney for the university told the governing body of college sports in March that nothing Nassar did at the university violated NCAA rules.
Now Beekman takes charge at a time when Michigan State's reputation is still very much tarnished.
"Every organization - mine, yours and everybody else's - can make improvements, and we need to do that and we need to make sure that we're as prepared and we have policies and procedures in place so that we can prevent things like this from ever happening again," he said. "At the same time, you sort of really have to believe it in your heart. You can come up with all kinds of policies and procedures that can collect dust on the shelf, but you really have to believe it in your heart and you have to think about it every day as you go through your day. That's the culture piece."
More AP coverage of the Nassar scandal: https://apnews.com/tag/LarryNassar
Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister
Updated July 16, 2018