Michigan State interim president John Engler resigns after criticizing victims of sexual assault

PHOTO: Michigan State University Interim President John Engler speaks during a Senate Commerce subcommittee hearing on "Strengthening and Empowering U.S. Amateur Athletes," on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 24, 2018.PlaySusan Walsh/AP
WATCH Michigan State interim president resigns amid backlash

Michigan State University's interim president resigned on Wednesday amid backlash over comments he made about survivors of sexual assault.

John Engler said he would step down, effective Jan. 23, after he appeared to criticize victims of the now-imprisoned gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.

The resignation came hours after Michigan State University's board of trustees scheduled an impromptu meeting for Thursday morning after Engler told The Detroit News that some Nassar survivors seemed to be "enjoying" the "spotlight."

PHOTO: Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor, who pleaded guilty in Nov. 2017 to sexual assault charges, is led from the courtroom after listening to victim testimony during his sentencing hearing in Lansing, Mich., Jan. 23, 2018. Brendan McDermid/Reuters
Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor, who pleaded guilty in Nov. 2017 to sexual assault charges, is led from the courtroom after listening to victim testimony during his sentencing hearing in Lansing, Mich., Jan. 23, 2018.

"There are a lot of people who are touched by this, survivors who haven't been in the spotlight," Engler told The Detroit News earlier this week. "In some ways, they have been able to deal with this better than the ones who've been in the spotlight who are still enjoying that moment at times, you know, the awards and recognition. And it's ending. It's almost done."

MSU trustee Brian Mosallam told The Associated Press that if Engler didn't resign, the board would "vote to remove him," and that he believed "the votes are there."

Engler didn't mention the controversial comments in his resignation letter, but he acknowledged that five of the board's eight trustees had requested he step down.

"The bottom line is that MSU is a dramatically better, stronger institution than it was one year ago," Engler wrote in an 11-page letter on Wednesday. "The many changes we have made are substantive and offer far-reaching in their impact (sic). At the same time, our leaders across the university are energized, organized and communicating in far more effective ways than had been the case."

This June 15, 2009, file photo, shows former Michigan Republican Gov. John Engler at a meeting in Detroit. The Associated Press
This June 15, 2009, file photo, shows former Michigan Republican Gov. John Engler at a meeting in Detroit.

Engler, 70, took the helm on a temporary basis last January when the previous president, Lou Anna Simon, resigned in the wake of the Nassar scandal.

Satish Udpa, who currently serves as executive vice president of Administrative Services at MSU, is expected to be named as Engler's replacement, ABC affiliate WXYZ reported, citing sources close to the matter.

Engler served as the Republican governor of Michigan from 1991 to 2003, and also worked as a lobbyist.

Nassar -- a former doctor at Michigan State and national medical coordinator for USA Gymnastics -- was sentenced to up to 175 years in state prison for criminal sexual conduct involving girls who were 15 years old or younger.

PHOTO: Larry Nassar sits in the court room during victim statements of his second sentencing in the Eaton County Circuit Court in Charlotte, Michigan, Jan. 31, 2018. Rebecca Cook/Reuters
Larry Nassar sits in the court room during victim statements of his second sentencing in the Eaton County Circuit Court in Charlotte, Michigan, Jan. 31, 2018.

In all, Nassar committed thousands of sexual assaults beginning in the early 1990s and through the summer of 2016, according to an independent report, conducted by law firm Ropes & Gray last year.

"He abused some survivors one time, while abusing others hundreds of times over a period of many years," the report said. "With the cover he crafted, he became, in the words of one survivor, a 'wolf in sheep’s clothing,' who cloaked himself in the 'guise of a loving friend and medical professional.'"