The University Of Michigan Fired A Former USA Gymnastics Official Linked To The Nassar Scandal
Just one day after her hiring was formally announced, the University of Michigan fired former USA Gymnastics coach Rhonda Faehn, cancelling a consulting contract that would have kept her on through the 2019 season, according to CNN. Faehn is widely believed to be the first USAG official told about Larry Nassar abusing its team members.
"I have come to the conclusion that it is not in the best interest of the University of Michigan and our athletic program to continue the consulting contract with Rhonda Faehn," Warde Manuel, the university's athletics director, said in a statement posted on the school's athletics website on Sunday. "It was the wrong decision, and I apologize. Our student-athletes are our highest priority and I want to do everything in my power to support them fully and put the focus back on their athletic performance."
Faehn had reportedly been working since Thursday, before the contract was canceled three days later. The University of Michigan Athletics Department had only announced Faehn's hiring, as a "consultant in a coaching capacity," on Saturday. Remarking that the "well-being and safety of our student-athletes is always our highest priority," Manuel said at the time that the school's student-athletes were included in the search and hiring process. He also said he met with captains before making the final decision to hire Faehn.
But within one day, many alumni and at least two members of the school's Board of Regents condemned the decision to take Faehn on, according to The Detroit News. "Much to my chagrin, I learned of this employment decision this past Saturday morning," Regent Denise Ilitch said in a statement, according to the newspaper. "I appreciate the wise observations made by many and share their disappointment. There will be further review of this matter."
In April of 2015, Faehn was named senior vice president of USAG's women's gymnastics program. She left the organization in May of 2018, but it was never clear whether she was fired, or whether she quit.
Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman called for Faehn's ouster before she formally left the organization, suggesting that the executive did not respond adequately after being told about Nassar's predatory and abusive behavior. "I reported my abuse to Rhonda Faehn and so did Maggie Nichols, and I don't know what she did or didn't do with that information, but I didn't get contacted by the FBI for over a year, and in that time 50 to 100 gymnasts were molested," Raisman said in an interview with The Indianapolis Star back in May of 2018.
Former gymnast Rachael Denhollander tweeted about Faehn's hiring and firing on Monday, criticizing the former coach for being "silent" during the Nassar investigation. "As we begged for answers from USAG, and said for more than a year that USAG had known and hidden it, Rhonda stayed silent," DenHollander wrote. "She did not speak up until the Senate required her to. She didn't help us find out the truth, she kept silent and helped protect USAG."
Faehn has not spoken publicly about her firing from the University of Michigan, though she did tweet an image of a Bible verse Sunday night after the announcement had been made.
When the university announced Faehn's hiring over the weekend, Manuel addressed her relationship to the Nassar scandal. At the time, Nassar was a USAG team physician and worked at Michigan State University.
"After our exhaustive due diligence, we felt comfortable that coach Faehn reported all information available to her regarding Larry Nassar and that she cooperated fully, including voluntarily participating in all investigations and offering testimony before Congress," he said, noting that there were never any charges against her.
But in her tweets, Denhollander argued that Faehn could have done more to protect and advocate for USAG team members, and that if she had, she and other gymnasts would likely support her hiring. "But she didn't do that," Denhollander wrote. "I wish she had."