ANN ARBOR, Mich. – A day after his previous contract expired with no public extension or update, Mel Pearson remains the Michigan hockey coach, UM confirmed Sunday morning to The Michigan Insider.
“Mel is our head coach,” a UM spokesperson said. “We will broadly communicate any changes to his contract when that is finalized.”
Pearson’s five-year contract to coach the Michigan hockey team expired on April 30. The university has yet to announce whether he will return for a sixth season at the helm of the Wolverines, and they declined to provide any information regarding an extension / agreement beyond his previous term.
The Michigan Insider has submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the University of Michigan to obtain any additional agreement between Pearson and the university. His previous contract, signed in January 2018, can be found here and was obtained by a FOIA request from The Michigan Daily.
Pearson assembled one of the most talented rosters in recent college hockey history and led Michigan to a Big Ten Tournament title, the No. 1 seed in the 2022 NCAA Tournament and the Frozen Four. But the program has been under investigation after allegations of misconduct, and that inquiry is the likely holdup between UM and a successful coach who has expressed a desire to return.
“I work under the direction of the athletic director (Warde Manuel) and the Board of Regents,” Pearson said The Michigan Daily. “So if they’re willing to have me back, that’s the plan.”
University spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald cited UM policy in declining to discuss any details about the investigation, including whether or not it existed. But the investigation into the hockey program was confirmed by Pearson himself during an interview with The Michigan Daily that was shared with The Michigan Insider.
“It’s an ongoing investigation. It’s been going on since October, ”Pearson said on Jan. 31. “I’m disappointed, obviously, in what’s being said. And the truth will come true at the end of the investigation, and I feel very confident that the allegations will be proved wrong. ”
For report from MLive, an individual filed a complaint about the hockey program with the university’s Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX Office. The university is using an outside law firm, WilmerHale, to lead an investigation into the complaint.
The allegations include the following, as summarized in an Oct. 28 letter from WilmerHale that was shared by MLive:
- Pearson “instructing students to lie on their COVID-19 tracing forms.”
- Pearson and Director of Hockey Operations Rick Bancroft discriminating against female staffers and “creating a toxic work environment for female support staff.”
- Pearson retaliates against a student-athlete for “raising concerns” about the hockey team’s culture.
- Bancroft knowing about sexual misconduct committed by the late athletic doctor Robert Anderson.
The allegations regarding COVID-19 tracing relate to the 2021 NCAA Tournament, MLive says. The Wolverines withdrew from that competition due to COVID protocols.
The Daily reported Michigan hockey has different locker-room policies for female support staff under Pearson than it did under its previous coach, Red Berenson. Regarding program culture, MLive cited a May 2021 email from Warde Manuel surveying the program to “improve any issues that may exist in your team environment.”
Bancroft has worked at Michigan since 1991. Anderson retired in 2003; the university recently reached a $ 490 million agreement to settle allegations of sexual abuse by the doctor.
Asked in Feburary if there was validity to the allegations, Pearson replied: “None at all.” Hey called the series of allegations “off-base” and added, “I don’t believe my job is on the line at this point.”
From a standpoint performance, Michigan has every reason to keep Pearson. He’s reached the Frozen Four twice and continues to recruit at a high level.
For now, at least, he remains the head of the program.
Story photo by David Wilcomes / MGoBlog.com