Effective immediately, Mel Pearson is no longer the head coach of the Michigan Wolverines hockey program, as first reported by John U. Bacon on Twitter. This decision comes on the heels of the conclusion of the WilmerHale investigation into Pearson and the culture he created within the program.
“It has been determined that Mel Pearson will not return as our ice coach,” U-M athletic director Warde Manuel said in a statement. “This decision has been weighed heavily and for some time. We welcomed an independent third-party review into the climate and culture of our program before furthering our assessment in lockstep with campus leadership.
“Our student-athletes having a positive and meaningful experience is of paramount importance, and a clear expectation within our department is that all employees and staff are valued and supported. I deeply appreciate and value the many individuals who came forward throughout this review.”
“Today’s announcement reflects the seriousness with what we’ve heard and the values we hold dear at Michigan.”
U-M hired WilmerHale, a Washington D.C. law firm, to conduct the investigation after several former and current players and staffers spoke out about the culture Pearson had created. Some of the accusations facing Pearson included encouraging players to provide false information on Covid-tracing forms, failing to hold the former director of hockey operations Rick Bancroft accountable for his “mistreatment of female staff members,” and for creating a culture of retaliation if players or staffers spoke out.
In the 68-page WilmerHale report, which you can read in its entirety here, the investigators closed with:
“These issues facing the hockey program require attention. Despite prior efforts to assess and respond to allegations regarding the culture of the program, additional work remains to be done.
“Specifically, the University should review whether [Pearson’s] conduct violates other University policies, including but not limited to Standard Practice Guide 601.90, Protection from Retaliation. In addition, the Athletic Department should take steps to address a number of issues discussed in this report, including (1) the mistreatment of female staff members by Mr. Bancroft; (2) Respondent’s inability or unwillingness to hold Mr. Bancroft accountable for his conduct; (3) pervasive fears among both student athletes and staff members of retaliation by Respondent for raising issues; and (4) inconsistencies in Respondent’s recollection, perception, and/or characterization of key incidents and issues as compared with other participants.”
Pearson coached Michigan to the Frozen Four twice during his tenure — last season most recently — and has produced a slew of NHL players. In the 2021 NHL Draft alone, three of the top five draft picks were Michigan Wolverines.
Pearson became the ninth head coach in program history when he signed a five-year contract in 2018. That contract expired in April 2022 and the university had remained silent on his future until the WilmerHale investigation was not only concluded, but after it leaked to local journalists nearly three months later.
Prior to becoming the team’s head coach, Pearson had served as an assistant/associate coach at Michigan from 1988-2011.