Mel Pearson out as Michigan hockey coach after ugly findings

Mel Pearson is out as Michigan Wolverines hockey coach Friday, after the school declined to renew his contract.

Pearson had been under scrutiny since the beginning of the 2021-22 season, when a complaint was formally filed against him and then-director of hockey operations Rick Bancroft.

The allegations against Pearson ranged from “pressuring students to lie on their COVID-19 tracing forms” prior to the 2021 NCAA tournament, to creating a “toxic work environment” for female support staff and claims that he retaliated against a former student athlete for bringing up issues with team culture.

The probe also alleges Bancroft knew about sexual misconduct committed by late Michigan athletic Dr. Robert Anderson.

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Michigan head coach Mel Pearson speaks during a news conference after practice as the Wolverines prepare for a Frozen Four matchup against Denver at TD Garden in Boston on Wednesday, April 6, 2022.

A scathing report Tuesday by Washington DC based law firm WilmerHale was released found Pearson did not provide credible answers to investigators and lied during their probe into the program.

Former UM goalie and volunteer assistant Steve Shields filed the complaint in October, claiming Pearson fired him in retaliation for reporting the allegations.

While the report concluded “(Pearson) has not committed retaliation against (Shields) as defined by the Policy” it went on to say, “The University should review, however, whether Respondent’s conduct violates other University policies, including but not limited to Standard Practice Guide 601.90, Protection from Retaliation.

“Our investigation did identify cultural issues within the hockey program that warrant attention.”

Michigan head coach Mel Pearson on the bench during action against Michigan State on Saturday, Feb.  12, 2022, at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.

Initial concerns over team culture were brought to Pearson’s attention following the 2021 season by former goalie and team captain Straus Mann.

According to the report, Shields said Pearson was “tipped off” that Mann was the “ringleader” of a group of athletes who wanted to raise concerns over how Pearson was leading the program, so Pearson “isolated” Mann and “basically got rid of him.”

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