The NCAA has sent a letter of inquiry to Michigan State University regarding circumstances surrounding the Larry Nassar sex abuse case, both parties confirmed late Tuesday.
The news was first reported Tuesday evening by the New York Times. In a statement late Tuesday evening, NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn said, "The NCAA has sent a letter of inquiry to Michigan State University regarding potential NCAA rules violations related to the assaults Larry Nassar perpetrated against girls and young women, including some student-athletes at Michigan State. We will have no further comment at this time."
Michigan State spokesman Jason Cody, in an email, confirmed the school had received a letter from the NCAA and is reviewing it for a response. Cody had not seen the letter, he wrote, and the school was not making the letter publicly available Tuesday.
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The decision by the NCAA to potentially open its own inquiry comes as a marathon sentencing hearing for Nassar in Michigan, in which more than 140 girls and women have given victims impact statements describing abuse, has brought renewed national attention and outrage over the case, in which the former longtime Michigan State sports physician has admitted to sexually assaulting patients during what he initially claimed was legitimate pain therapy. Among the women asserting abuse are several current and former Michigan State athletes, including members of the gymnastics, softball, volleyball, and rowing teams.
It has been publicly reported in numerous media outlets since last March that multiple women have said they made complaints about Nassar to Michigan State athletics officials — including former gymnastics coach Kathie Klages and two athletic trainers — and their comments were either dismissed or not acted upon. Klages — who retired last February — has denied these claims.
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Nassar, 54, will likely learn his sentence for seven sex assaults on Wednesday, and he faces a minimum 25-year term. He also faces a 60-year federal prison sentence for child pornography crimes he pleaded guilty to last year.
The Nassar case has drawn comparisons to the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal at Penn State, in which the NCAA levied punishments including a $60 million fine and a four-year postseason ban for the Nittany Lions football team, but there are significant differences between the cases. In the Penn State case, two university administrators were also charged with crimes for failing to report an alleged sexual assault to law enforcement when the NCAA weighed in, and a university-commissioned investigation by former FBI director Louis Freeh had concluded the school's former president and former football coach Joe Paterno were also at fault. In this case, no Michigan State officials have been charged with a crime connected to Nassar's abuse, and the university has resisted calls to commission its own public inquiry into how university officials responded to previous complaints about Nassar.
The NCAA ultimately softened its penalties of Penn State to settle a lawsuit filed by Pennsylvania lawmakers who questioned whether the organization overstepped its legal powers.