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Breaking: Mel Pearson has been fired by Michigan
Ed. Note - This is a breaking story. I’ll have more on the situation at Michigan in a newsletter exclusively for subscribers later today.
Michigan head coach Mel Pearson has been fired.
Three days after reports dropped with the shocking details inside the WilmerHale report into the Michigan program, the school announced today that Pearson will not return as head coach.
According to reporting from John U. Bacon, Michigan AD Warde Manuel wanted to retain Pearson and was attempting to sign him to a contract extension earlier this week, before the details of the report were released via Bacon and The Athletic's Katie Strang. The University of Michigan Board of Regents voted 8-0 to fire Pearson, and interim president Mary Sue Coleman agreed with the board. Ultimately, the powerful majority won out.
Pearson, 63, had been the head coach at Michigan since 2017. He led the program to four NCAA Tournaments and two Frozen Four appearances in five seasons.
The WilmerHale report investigated what was alleged to be a toxic culture inside the Michigan program. Michigan alum and NHL veteran Steve Shields, according to the report, who was the team's volunteer goaltending coach for years, and the director of player development from 2017-21, was the person who filed a complaint which ultimately launched the investigation. According to Shields, he was fired from his volunteer position for raising concerns after the 2020-21 season concluded.
The findings covered an enormous scope. WilmerHale said that former Michigan staffer Rick Bancroft harassed numerous female employees and Pearson should have or would have known about it and opted to do nothing. In particular, the report mentions that Bancroft bullied and harassed former secretary Lora Durkee, nutritionist Caroline Mandel, and communications director Kristy McNeil.
Bancroft retired in June.
The report also alleges that Pearson instructed players to lie on COVID-19 forms ahead of the 2021 NCAA Tournament. Michigan had positive tests arise once they arrived in Fargo for their regional games and ultimately had to withdraw from the tournament due to COVID policies.
The report also alleges that Pearson retaliated against former captain Strauss Mann after he raised concerns about the team's culture to university officials. Mann feared retaliation from Pearson if he remained with the program and left Michigan after his junior year to sign a pro deal in Europe. This summer he signed an NHL contract with the San Jose Sharks.
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