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A Michigan hockey assistant who was linked to toxic and discriminatory behavior has retired

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-D.C.-based WilmerHale law firm, to the person who filed the complaint with University of Michigan’s Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX Office.

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 retaliating 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.”

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.

Igor Burdetskiy

Igor Burdetskiy

Founder, Editor-in-Chief, & CEO at Hooked on Hockey Magazine
I grew up playing Ball and Roller Hockey day and night somewhat religiously throughout elementary and middle school. The two don't compare though when I lace up the skates and hit the ice. I live and breathe hockey beyond the perspective of "it's just a game" and I will gladly talk hockey for hours with anyone. Hockey is more than just a lifestyle, it's a culture of passionate people who make memories every time the puck is dropped. Hockey has not only helped me get through some of the hardest times in life but has created some of the best memories to date. Want to talk hockey with me? Shoot me an email: iburdetskiy@hookedonhockey.com and let's talk some hockey!
Igor Burdetskiy
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