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University of Michigan cuts ties with embattled men's hockey coach Mel Pearson

Anna Schlutt | For Michigan Radio

The University of Michigan has cut ties with embattled men's ice hockey coach Mel Pearson.

Pearson's contract expired after last season and he had been an at-will employee, pending a review of the program.

An investigation by Washington, D.C.-based law firm WilmerHale revealed allegations that Pearson pressured student-athletes to lie about COVID-19 contact tracing during the 2020-21 season and alleged Pearson and former director of hockey operations Rick Bancroft, who retired in June, discriminated against female employees.

The report also discussed allegations that Pearson retaliated against his star team captain, Strauss Mann, for bringing up concerns, causing Mann to leave the program before his senior year and play professionally in Sweden.

"The conclusions are very clear," said author, sports commentator, and UM professor John U. Bacon. "Anyone who says otherwise has not read the report." He added, "Retaliating against a player strikes me as the exact opposite of what we should be doing as coaches and teachers. It is the opposite of our mission."

Read the full investigation published by MLive here.

The Wolverines did not play in the 2021 NCAA Tournament due to COVID-19 protocols.

With a team led by NHL first-round draft picks, they were 31-10-1 last season and lost to Denver in the Frozen Four.

Bacon said there will be a number of very good candidates willing and available to replace Pearson, but said a decision will have to be made swiftly, since practice will officially begin when students return to the university in the fall.

Tracy Samilton covers the auto beat for Michigan Radio. She has worked for the station for 12 years, and started out as an intern before becoming a part-time and, later, a full-time reporter. Tracy's reports on the auto industry can frequently be heard on Morning Edition and All Things Considered, as well as on Michigan Radio. She considers her coverage of the landmark lawsuit against the University of Michigan for its use of affirmative action a highlight of her reporting career.