Secchia on MSU: ‘If we’re wrong, we’ll admit we’re wrong’

Posted at 10:04 PM, Jan 25, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-25 22:04:57-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- The resignation of former Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon in the wake of Larry Nassar's sentencing hasn't come easy for those close to her, including philanthropist Peter Secchia.

“It’s a good idea that blew up," Secchia tells FOX 17. “[Larry Nassar] was hired. He was a rock star. Everybody in the world wanted him to be on their staff.”

Secchia saysLarry Nassar came highly recommended to the university from elite organizations.

“The recommendations were unbelievable from the US Gymnastics Association, from the various gymnasts clubs, from the Olympic Committee, but when we checked on his background, I’m told that nobody would talk to us because of the privacy provisions that the federal government created," Secchia says.

Despite that, Secchia says Michigan State gave Nassar a seat at the table because people were coming from all over the world to be a part of his program.

“You know what? It was a point of pride, because the guy was known as a wonderful, wonderful person to help these young ladies who had serious pelvic pain," Secchia says.

According to Secchia, the massive size of MSU made it easier for Nassar to get away with years of sexual abuse.

“It’s wonderful to have a big university, but one the problems at a big university is you don’t know everything that’s going on. In this case, some people really screwed up. We have to find out who they are," Secchia says.

In addition to administrative failure, Secchia is convinced there had to be parents who knew something.

“Well you know, if you had a really darling young daughter that you were really proud of that had the talent to be an Olympic star, you loved her and she was a poster child in your community, were you gonna go public with this? Probably not. If you wanted a gold medal, would you go public with this? Well, maybe not."

He says he's skeptical that some parents didn't recognize there was something wrong with Nassar's practices. “You don’t have to be a genius to recognize when someone’s working on your daughter whether they’re wearing gloves or not. The arguments I read in the paper, ‘Well, nobody could see, nobody could tell what he was doing.' That’s true, but if you read the protocol that he had to wear gloves, I don’t think I have to be an expert in medicine to recognize that he didn’t have gloves on."

When Secchia got the phone call on Wednesday night that MSU President Simon resigned, he was hurt.

“She was the best, he says. "Too bad that she made a mistake, if she made a mistake. I don’t know that. I just know that she felt it was time to get out of the way."

He says he recognizes that some parents may not want to send their child to MSU in light of what's happened, but he stands by the school that he's been a part of for over 50 years.

“Michigan State’s a great place to go to school. It’s got nice people.  it’s a blue collar school. It’s not arrogant: If we’re wrong, we’ll admit we’re wrong. But I don’t know who’s wrong, and that’s what we’ve gotta find out. And I don’t think we will find out, ‘cause it’s a little bit of everything."

Secchia insists his involvement with the university won't change. At the age of 80, he says he's excited about the projects he's working on to get the university more buildings, scholarships, and further their advancements in medical technology.

Nassar was sentenced Wednesday to 40 to 175 years in prison after admitting to sexually abusing gymnasts in his care. The sentence capped a remarkable seven-day hearing in which scores of Larry Nassar's victims were able to confront him face to face in a Michigan courtroom.

The Associated Press contributed to this report