Should Michigan State Receive the Death Penalty?

If MSU knew about these sexual assaults and tried to cover them up, then the choice is clear.


The New York Times

Alex Evans, Opinions Editor

Less than six years ago, former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted of 45 counts of sexual abuse of children and sentenced to a minimum 30 years in prison. The university also terminated legendary head coach Joe Paterno’s contract, and the NCAA imposed a series of devastating sanctions on the program, including a four-year bowl ban and the required vacating of all wins from 1998-2011.

Today, the NCAA and the rest of the collegiate sports world finds itself in a similar scenario, this time with former United States Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar, who was given a maximum sentence of 175 years for molesting dozens of female athletes who competed for either the U.S. or Michigan State University.

Nassar’s actions during his 25 years at the university are troubling to say the least, but even more concerning is the fact that multiple women came forward with stories of his alleged abuse in the past, only to be turned away or be told that Nassar’s conduct was “medically appropriate.”

Why, then, with so many accusations has it taken so long for Nassar to be brought to justice? Speculation varies, including the idea that people at the university, namely trustees, coaches, athletic staff personnel and even now former university president Lou Anna K. Simon, had some sort of knowledge of what Nassar was doing.

According to an article published on, gymnasts have been coming forward for decades with claims that the disgraced doctor had sexually assaulted them, including Olympic medalist McKayala Maroney in 2012 and former Michigan State gymnast Larissa Boyce in the 1990s.

Maroney was apparently paid off by the US Olympic Committee, while Boyce was encouraged not to file a lawsuit against Nassar by former Michigan State gymnastics coach Kathie Klages.

The abuse didn’t end with gymnasts, either. Tiffany Thomas-Lopez, a former Michigan State softball player during the 1990s, confided in three athletic trainers at the university about Nassar’s assault on her, but they ended up not taking any action.

Additionally, according to an ESPN “Outside the Lines” report mentioned in a New York Post article, several allegations of sexual assault have been made against members of both the football and men’s basketball teams that further complicate the matter.

It’s difficult to believe that Nassar would’ve been able to get away with abusing female athletes as long as he did if other university employees were not covering for him in the first place.

If the investigation, now headed by Michigan Attonery General Bill Schuette, yields results that confirm these suspicions regarding the school’s knowledge of Nassar and the alleged sexual assault charges against players on two of the most prominent athletic teams on its campus, then Michigan State deserves to be reprimanded to the highest degree with the death penalty.

The NCAA needs to send a message, something they failed to do with Penn State, that sexual abuse of any kind will not be tolerated on college campuses.

A $60 million fine, postseason bans for all athletic teams and scholarship reductions simply aren’t enough.

If the NCAA has an moral compass and decency, they’ll shut down any and all athletic competition from taking place at Michigan State for at least one full year. It may not be fair to the current student athletes who have nothing to do with what has transpired, but it’s the right thing to do.

It won’t rectify the emotional distress that each victim now has to live with, but it would certainly be a start.