Michigan hockey assistant linked to toxic, discriminatory climate retires

ANN ARBOR, MI – The University of Michigan’s director of hockey operations, who is linked to the WilmerHale investigation into the university’s hockey program, has retired.

Rick Bancroft’s retirement was effective Monday, June 20, university athletics spokesman Kurt Svoboda said. Bancroft did not provide a reason for his retirement, officials said, and his bio on the Michigan Athletics website is no longer available.

Bancroft, who joined the hockey program as an athletic trainer in 1991, was named in the investigation into allegations of a toxic and discriminatory environment for female staff, as well as an allegation that he knew about sexual misconduct committed by late athletic doctor Robert Anderson, according to an October 2021 letter from Bruce Berman, general counsel of the Washington-DC-based WilmerHale law firm, to the person who filed the complaint with the University of Michigan’s Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX Office.

Read more: Law firm investigates Michigan hockey over allegations of COVID deception, toxic environment

The accusations summarized in Berman’s letter include:

  • Head coach Mel Pearson “instructing students to lie on their COVID-19 tracing forms” ahead of the 2021 NCAA Tournament opener in North Dakota.
  • Pearson and Bancroft discriminating against female staffers and “creating a toxic work environment for female support staff.”
  • Pearson retaliates against a student athlete for “raising concerns” about the hockey team’s culture.
  • Bancroft knowing about sexual misconduct committed by Anderson.

No official announcement of the investigation’s outcome has been made and the university has denied multiple Freedom of Information Act requests for the formal complaint and WilmerHale report, citing privacy exemptions.

“We have worked through a process within the university,” UM Athletic Director Warde Manuel said. “As it comes out, and we talk about it at the appropriate time, we’ll talk about whether something’s complete or not complete. But we have a lot of information that we need to make the decisions we need to make. ”

MLive / The Ann Arbor News filed a Freedom of Information Act request for any emails exchanged between Bancroft and Manuel or other UM administrators since September 2021. A separate request was made for Bancroft’s personnel file. Both have yet to be answered.

Pearson’s future

Pearson, who has declined to comment on the issue to MLive / The Ann Arbor News, continues to coach the Michigan hockey team without a contract as his contract expired on May 1. Manuel said the 63-year-old is still handling his head coaching duties and getting paid.

“We’re working through everything,” Manuel told MLive / The Ann Arbor News Thursday, June 16, after he presented the athletic department budget during a board of regents meeting. “He’s working and continuing to be our hockey coach. There’s no difference in my mind in what we’re doing. We’re just working through a process and looking at the things that we need to address and we’ll move forward. ”

Read more: Michigan mum on investigation, Mel Pearson remains hockey coach despite no contract

Manuel declined to give a timeline for a resolution to Pearson’s future with the program.

The Wolverines are coming off their most successful season under Pearson, with one of the most talented rosters ever assembled in college hockey. The team, which finished with a 31-10-1 record and earned the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament before losing in the Frozen Four, featured 13 NHL draft picks, including an NCAA record seven first-round selections.

“He’s our hockey coach, and I anticipate him being our hockey coach,” Manuel said when asked if Pearson will be the coach next season.

Read more from MLive:

Michigan hockey coach Mel Pearson’s contract expires; extension talks ongoing

GLI has a new home, and Michigan hockey not in the field

Wolverine Confidential podcast: Mel Pearson, post-spring football battles, more

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