Larry Nassar Backlash? Big Drop in Donations Stings MSU
February 12th, 2018, 7:20 AM
Here's two facts: The Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal has tarnished the reputation of Michigan State University. And fundraising at the school took a 25-percent hit in the second half of 2017 while the tragic drama was unfolding.
Cause and effect? It's not clear, writes Detroit News columnist Neal Rubin:
Across that span, the former MSU doctor pleaded guilty to child pornography charges and criminal sexual misconduct, drew a 60-year sentence in the pornography case and was publicly accused of sexual abuse by three former Olympic gymnasts — and as his toxic story splashed across the front pages, donations fell to $104.2 million from $138.8 million in the same period the year before.
But there are potential silver linings in what seems like an ominous cloud. Experts in collegiate fundraising say that any backlash should reach its expiration date by the start of the 2019 school year, and that the fall of Nassar and the fall-off in gifts are not necessarily related.
In comparison to MSU, donations to the University of Michigan dropped by only 0.86 percent in the last two quarters of 2017, while another large Big Ten institution showed an increase of 23 percent.
That increase was at Penn State, where former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky drew to 30 to 60 years in prison in 2012 for sexually assaulting boys. Three administrators were imprisoned for covering up the scandal.
Penn State’s rebound could be an encouraging sign for MSU, and its response to a wrenching scandal could also be a template as the university goes forward without a president who resigned, without an athletic director who retired, and without knowing how deeply its finances and reputation will be damaged by NCAA penalties and the potential lawsuits from more than 250 of Nassar’s victims.