(WXYZ) — Mark Hollis announced his retirement as Michigan State University athletic director in January 2018, just days after disgraced sports doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced for first-degree criminal sexual misconduct.
“I am not running away from anything, I am running toward something," he said.
During his statement to the media, this is what Hollis said he was running toward:
“Comfort, compassion and understanding for the survivors and our community; togetherness, time and love for my family," he added.
The Nassar case shook Hollis. He had no direct supervisory authority over Nassar, and no knowledge of his criminal behavior. The university did eventually disclose that Nassar sexually assaulted at least 25 MSU student-athletes — and over 300 victims in all during his nearly 20 years with the school.
Hollis said during a recent interview at Campus Martius Park, that stepping aside as athletic director was in everyone’s best interest.
“Reflecting now, still the right decision?" Dave LewAllen asked.
“Absolutely. It was the best decision for me, I think it was the best decision for Michigan State and the survivors," Hollis responded. “I think some calm had to come over, and for me, it was a health issue, it was a mental health issue.”
At MSU, Hollis was known for being an innovator. He put a hockey rink in the middle of Spartan Stadium for the Cold War game against Michigan in 2001.
Ten years later, Hollis was the mastermind behind the first basketball game played on a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier. He also put the court in the middle of Ford Field for what was billed as the “BasketBowl," between MSU and Kentucky, in 2003. 78,000 fans turned out to watch and the NCAA took notice, utilizing a similar stadium configuration for its Final Four for years.
Now living in Detroit, Hollis is working for Dan Gilbert’s Rock Ventures, focusing on business development, sports and entertainment.
At the top of the wish list for Gilber, and Hollis, is landing the NFL draft for Detroit.
“It would have a bigger impact on Detroit right now than any Super Bowl in any other city, so that’s one we’d like to see land pretty close to where we’re sitting right now," he said. "I think the NFL sees that vision, I know with Ford and Rocket here in town, both huge supporters of the NFL, there’s a lot of reasons for them to look our way.”
Hollis is hoping for similar consideration from the NCAA, which named Detroit a regional host for the 2024 men’s basketball tournament. He thinks another Final Four is also in the city’s future.
“We’re in the conversation down in Indianapolis, that’s an important component, same with the NFL, the NBA, is making sure Detroit is top of mind, people know what it looks like, people know the experience and all the good that’s here and that’s just what we’re continuing to push.”
Newly appointed as chair of the Detroit Sports Commission, Hollis is becoming a major cheerleader for Detroit — and he’s bullish about the future.
“We’re sort of on the edge of what’s coming in next, and then next, and next and that’s the momentum needs is to have that first big event again," he said.