Michigan fires hockey coach Pearson after investigation into his behavior
Mel Pearson will no longer serve as head coach of Michigan's hockey program, the school announced Friday.
Pearson was dismissed in the wake of an anonymous survey of the team's players and staff, as well as a subsequent investigation commissioned by the university and conducted by the law firm WilmerHale.
Respondents to the survey said Pearson instructed players to give false information on COVID-tracing documents, misled recruits about how much they'd receive in scholarship funds, and called a player a "Jew," The Athletic's Katie Strang reported Tuesday. The compilation of survey answers is apparently dated June 8, 2021.
The investigation that followed found Pearson also showed an "inability or unwillingness" to discipline director of hockey operations Rick Bancroft for conduct that included the "mistreatment of female staff members," according to Strang. WilmerHale's investigative report is apparently dated May 5, 2022.
Both the survey and the investigation found several people believed Pearson forced 2021 team captain and starting goaltender Strauss Mann to leave the team. Those survey respondents believe Mann was banished in a retaliatory move after he attempted to change the program's culture for the better.
Three people in the athletic department also made that accusation in the investigation, the results of which stated those conducting the probe didn't consider Pearson's version of those events credible.
Steve Shields, a former NHL netminder and Michigan alumnus who was a volunteer goaltending coach with the school and later the hockey program's director of player development, made complaints to the university's Equity, Civil Rights, and Title IX Office in September 2021.
Shields said he was fired from his volunteer role for raising concerns about Pearson's handling of the program, according to WilmerHale's findings.
Pearson denied telling players to lie on their COVID-19 forms, claimed he "never witnessed (Bancroft) mistreat female employees at Michigan," and said Mann's exit wasn't due to "any friction" between them, per the investigators.
Pearson's five-year contract expired in early May, but he remained in his position as an at-will employee pending a review of the program.