BREAKING: University investigates Jerry Reighard for asking gymnast to lie about injuries
UPDATE: Jerry Reighard's interview regarding the internal investigation is happening today, March 28, with the Central Michigan internal investigation team, Central Michigan Life learned from a member of the CMU Athletic Department. The athletic department has been ready for over three weeks, the source said, but Reighard's union representation did not accept an interview date until now.
All other interviews have been completed, the person close to the situation said.
Jerry Reighard, the gymnastics coach at Central Michigan University for 35 years, was abruptly placed on paid administrative leave Feb. 20, pending an internal investigation.
Athletic Director Michael Alford wrote in a letter to Reighard that he had been accused of engaging in misconduct with a student-athlete on the gymnastics team. Central Michigan Life received a copy of that letter, and the rest of Reighard's personnel file, through a Freedom of Information Act request. The university charged the newspaper $404 to provide the requested documents.
A gymnast reported to the athletic department that Reighard directed her to provide false information to medical staff related to her fitness to compete. Alford then suspended the longtime gymnastics coach. His wife, Nancy, was also suspended from any team activities. She served as a volunteer assistant for 17 years.
If the student's complaint is found to have merit, Reighard will have broken CMU protocols, Mid-American Conference standards for behavior and NCAA regulations for violation of ethical conduct and the protection of student-athletes.
This is not the first time Reighard has been questioned about his ethical conduct and the protection of the student-athletes in his care. On June 6, 2017, the Office of Civil Rights and Institutional Equity (OCRIE) opened an investigation of Reighard after it received allegations that he violated the university's sexual misconduct policy. What isn't explained in the documents received by CM Life is what he was accused of doing. However, 50 days later, on July 26, OCRIE issued a ruling that Reighard did not violate the policy.
"I must impress upon you the seriousness of the incident by highlighting the fact that future instances of this nature will be addressed in a more formal and serious matter," Alford wrote to Reighard in an August 2017 email following OCRIE's decision.
Reighard was also questioned for exceeding his allotted team practice times. NCAA limits practice hours in order to protect athletes' health and safety. In the offseason after the 1998-99 campaign, Reighard was given a warning by former Compliance Coordinator Derek van der Merwe for requiring student-athletes to practice longer than the NCAA rule of 20 hours per week.
On Feb. 17, 2000, van der Merwe reached out to the gymnastics coach again because "numerous" student-athletes reported to the compliance office that Reighard exceeded the four hours per day, 20 hours per week limit. In order to try to help correct his behavior, the compliance office required each of Reighard's team members to keep a playing and practice log for the following few weeks.
"The health and safety of your student-athletes should never be in jeopardy," van der Merwe wrote in an email to Reighard.
In the February suspension email to Reighard, Alford instructed him to cease all contact with current or former student-athletes, staff, volunteers, students and faculty. The only way Reighard has been allowed to speak to the athletic department is through Angie Moss, the assistant director of internal operations. Reighard was also told to have no contact with current or potential recruits. He was also instructed to have no contact with the media as a university representative.
Reighard, since the start of the investigation, was told he could no longer perform any functions involving that of a coach for the gymnastics program.
In his place until the investigation concludes is Christine MacDonald, a 23-year member of Reighard's staff. She was promoted as associate head coach in 2006 and is currently preparing the Chippewas to compete in the NCAA Championships in the first round against Illinois on April 4 in Ann Arbor.
Since taking over in the 1984-85 season, Reighard delivered eight MAC regular season titles and 16 victories in the MAC Championships. The Chippewas picked up their ninth MAC regular season championship in the 2018-19 season, but it was capped off by MacDonald - not Reighard.
In this year's MAC Championships, CMU finished second to Northern Illinois, 195.975-195.575.