This story has been updated to include a statement from athletic director Warde Manuel.
Mel Pearson’s time at Michigan has come to an end.
After a completed investigation into the Michigan hockey program revealed several instances of misconduct, the University and Athletic Department made their decision: Pearson will no longer serve as the Wolverines’ hockey coach.
“It has been determined that Mel Pearson will not return as our ice hockey coach,” athletic director Warde Manuel said in a statement. “This decision has been weighed heavily and for some time. We welcomed an independent third-party review into the climate and culture of our program before furthering our assessment in lockstep with campus leadership.”
Interim President Mary Sue Coleman will announce the decision officially on Friday in conjunction with the Regents and Manuel, terminating Pearson’s employment with Michigan Athletics. Journalist and former Michigan professor John Bacon broke the news on Twitter, and The Daily confirmed its veracity.
As of 4 p.m. on Friday, Pearson did not respond to a text for comment from The Daily.
The decision was well justified. WilmerHale’s 68-page report included evidence that Pearson committed misconduct several times over the course of his tenure at Michigan. It detailed retaliation against former goaltender Strauss Mann for raising concerns about the team, bullying and harassment of women in the Wolverines’ program and encouragement of student athletes to lie on COVID-19 contact tracing records.
The report also listed Pearson as a non-credible source multiple times and recommended that Michigan address his silence and lack of accountability regarding the misconduct of former Director of Hockey Operations Rick Bancroft.
“Our student-athletes having a positive and meaningful experience is of paramount importance,” Manuel said. “And a clear expectation within our department is that all employees and staff are valued and supported. … Today’s announcement reflects the seriousness with what we’ve heard and the values we hold dear at Michigan.”
Although the Athletic Department fired Pearson, many wonder why the decision did not come sooner following the report’s release. Despite the severity of every charge in the report, it took three days after it went public for the University and Michigan Athletics to come to a verdict.
Part of the reason lies in Manuel’s alleged support for Pearson. Journalist and former Michigan professor John U. Bacon reported that Manuel wanted to keep Pearson as the hockey coach — even exploring an extension for Pearson, who has been an at-will employee since his original five-year contract expired May 1. Manuel’s support juxtaposed the positions of Coleman and the Regents, who wanted to fire Pearson sooner.
Still, the timing of the decision — almost two-thirds of the way through the offseason — is shocking considering Manuel had the report on his desk three months ago.
With Pearson removed from his position, Michigan Athletics must now decide who will lead the program into a new era. The Wolverines have less than two months to find a head coach before the first exhibition game of the season, and that doesn’t account for any assistant coach or support staff vacancies that might open up within the next few weeks.
But that is a decision Michigan brought entirely on itself. A lack of action regarding the investigation shortened the window to hire a new coach, and now the Wolverines face the consequences.
After an uncertain offseason, Pearson’s stewardship of the Michigan program is over. Now, whoever takes the reins faces an arduous task to repair what damage he caused.