CMU fires gymnastics coach following investigation

Michigan
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MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. (WOOD) — Central Michigan University has fired a head gymnastics coach who had been on administrative leave.

The firing of Jerry Reighard comes following an internal investigation that showed he repeatedly disregarded medical staff’s role in addressing student-athlete injuries, according to a press release from the university.

A 121-page investigation report from CMU Faculty Personnel Services cited “egregious misconduct” by Reighard in attempting to undermine the university’s concussion management plan, the release stated.

The report found Reighard created a hostile atmosphere that went against CMU’s policies that gives team physicians and athletic trainers the ability to manage athletes’ injuries without interference from coaches. For example, medical staff has the sole authority to decide when athletes return to play, a release noted. 

The university says the latest incident was in February when Reighard attempted to get a student to lie about concussion symptoms.

CMU officials say the investigation involved two dozen interviews, which included team members, medical staff and athletic trainers. The final interview was done in late March with Reighard and his union representatives. The university says the meeting was delayed for three weeks because one of the representatives was not available.

Reighard received the investigation report on April 3 and had two weeks to respond. His response was received and reviewed, but it did not change the termination decision, the university says.

Michael Alford, associate vice president and director of athletics, said in a press release the findings could lead to an NCAA violation. The university says athletics staff have been in contact with the NCAA and plans to cooperate with them fully.

“Our student-athletes and their families trust us to protect our students,” Alford said in a statement. “We will not tolerate a callous disregard of safety. We will not tolerate actions that put students in the way of significant and even life-threatening injuries. Student safety at Central Michigan University is an absolute priority, always.”

CMU announced in February it launched an internal investigation on Reighard’s conduct, though officials did not disclose the allegations at that point.

Reighard took over the gymnastics program in 1984 and led the Chippewas to their first Mid-American Conference Championship title. He was named the MAC Coach of the Year nine times.

Alford said he will conduct a national search for a new coach. Associate head coach Christine MacDonald has led the program since Reighard was placed on paid leave.

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