Michigan State says crimes by Larry Nassar didn't violate NCAA rules

Michigan State told the NCAA last month that it does not believe the crimes committed by former university doctor Larry Nassar violated NCAA rules, and that the school and its athletic department were compliant with NCAA guidelines in how they handled the situation.

A letter sent to the NCAA from a law firm hired to help Michigan State answer questions raised by the national governing body indicated that 25 of the people Nassar abused during his two decades as a school employee were Spartans student-athletes. Six of those student-athletes were abused after 2014, when the school had cleared Nassar of wrongdoing in a Title IX case and allowed him to return to seeing patients while he remained under police investigation.

Mike Glazier, an attorney from the law firm of Bond, Schoeneck & King, wrote in the letter dated March 22 that Michigan State was not attempting to "sidestep" any issues related to Nassar but did not find any reason to believe violations had occurred after reviewing specific NCAA bylaws.

"To be clear, the university finds Nassar's conduct to be abhorrent and a violation of every standard of conduct expected of university employees," Glazier wrote.

Nassar, who was a renowned osteopathic doctor in the gymnastics community, is serving a 60-year federal prison sentence for child pornography charges. He was also sentenced to up to 175 years in state prison for sexually abusing his patients on Michigan State's campus and elsewhere.

NCAA leaders sent a letter to Michigan State during one of Nassar's sentencing hearings in January, asking for more information about any potential issues that fall under the organization's jurisdiction. Glazier's letter said NCAA officials met with interim athletic director Bill Beekman and others representing Michigan State in early March to discuss the issues. His letter said the NCAA agreed during that discussion that it was seeking more information but had not yet opened an official infractions case against the university.

The NCAA declined to add any detail about its ongoing inquiry. "We do not have anything further to share at this time," NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn said.

Glazier said the law firm looked specifically at whether Nassar provided extra benefits to student-athletes or inducement to prospective athletes during the recruiting process, or "knowingly provided medications to student-athletes contrary to medical licensure, commonly accepted standards of care in sports medicine practice or state or federal law" -- all of which are prohibited by NCAA bylaws.

Regarding the last item, Glazier's letter argued that the bylaw is focused on providing banned substances or medications. It is not clear if the definition of "medication" in the bylaw can include inappropriate treatments. The NCAA did not answer questions seeking to clarify the language of its rulebook.

The letter also noted that the section of the NCAA rulebook that says the well-being of student-athletes should be an imperative for all universities is a guideline, but per NCAA rules is not subject to any type of enforcement penalties.

"Nonetheless, the university wishes to assure staff that, as President [John] Engler has stated repeatedly and in the strongest terms, the university is committed to understanding how this could have happened, how it could have gone undetected for so long, and what must be done to prevent it from ever happening again," Glazier wrote in the letter.

The NCAA inquiry is one of several open investigations into the university's possible role in allowing Nassar to abuse patients for nearly two decades on its campus. Michigan's attorney general's office, the state legislature, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives and the Department of Education all have ongoing investigations. The school's letter to the NCAA promised that if any new information that points to NCAA violations is brought to light in the future, Michigan State will report that information to the organization.