Michigan hockey under investigation
Editor’s Note: This article will be updated as new information becomes available.
Editor’s Note: Some sources are anonymous for fear of reprisal. In accordance with our ethics policy (which you will find in full in our statutes), the editor and editor know the identity of the sources.
Michigan’s No. 3 hockey team is being investigated for a combination of Title IX violations, workplace culture complaints and misconduct related to COVID-19.
More specifically, the investigation by law firm WilmerHale involves accusations that Michigan coach Mel Pearson told players to lie on COVID-19 contact tracing forms before the 2021 NCAA tournament, which Pearson and the director of hockey operations Rick Bancroft allegedly created a toxic work environment for female staff and that Pearson allegedly retaliated against a player for voicing issues in the Wolverines program.
In an interview with the Michigan Daily on Jan. 31, Pearson said he denied all allegations.
“The truth will come true at the end of the investigation,” Pearson said. “And I’m very confident that the allegations will be denied.”
The investigation, which began in October 2021, is being led by the same firm that investigated allegations about the late varsity athletics doctor Robert Anderson and allegations of sexual misconduct towards former university provost Martin Philbert. . MLive reported that a person who filed a complaint with Michigan’s Office of Equity, Civil Rights, and Title IX was told by attorney Bruce Berman, general counsel for the WilmerHale law firm, that his firm would be conducting the Michigan survey.
Michigan’s Title IX investigation against the Michigan hockey team involves the treatment of female support staff. A source close to the Daily, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of professional retaliation, alleges they were told the women were denied access to the team locker rooms in order to carry out duties under the mandate from Pearson.
Another source, who also asked to remain anonymous for fear of professional retaliation, alleged that the current policy under Pearson is different from what Wolverines followed under former coach Red Berenson, which bars female support staff from fully enter the locker room compared to previous policies which required players to wear clothing in the locker room when female support staff were working with the team.
Regarding workplace culture issues, MLive reported that a May 19, 2021 email from Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel asked the Wolverines to conduct an environmental investigation to resolve the issues. “problems that may exist in your team environment”.
Pearson told the Daily that the person who filed the formal complaint with Michigan was a “disgruntled employee.” The Daily did not confirm that the unnamed party was a member of staff, although MLive’s Samuel Dodge reported that it was an employee in the original report.
Bancroft, who is also under investigation, is still employed by Michigan Athletics. Neither he nor Pearson are currently on administrative leave. Pearson maintained that he was not concerned about his own job security in an interview with The Daily.
“I don’t believe my job is on the line at this point,” Pearson said.
Pearson told the Daily he was aware of the investigation dating back to when it began in October. He also said he spoke with his team on Saturday during the Michigan series at Wisconsin, the day reports of the investigation originally surfaced. He thinks the Wolverines handled the announcement well.
On the recruiting trail, Pearson maintained that some Michigan commitments contacted him. He said he couldn’t reiterate their comments, but they backed him up.
“This is my 40th year in the hockey premier league,” Pearson said. “I’m going to show my reputation for people to see what I’ve done and how I’ve performed and not just in athletics but in my daily life and how I live my life.”
The Daily is currently investigating this story and will add updates as new information surfaces.