Michigan State Spartans coach Mark Dantonio denies allegations concerning handling of sexual assault complaints
EAST LANSING, Mich. — Tom Izzo and Mark Dantonio, the two most prominent coaches at Michigan Statesaid Friday night that they have no plans to step away from their positions in the wake of a report about a pervasive culture of sexual assault on campus and within their two programs.
Earlier Friday, Outside the Lines published a report about the “pattern of widespread denial, inaction and information suppression” when it comes to addressing sexual assaults on Michigan State’s campus and within its athletic department. Interviews and public records obtained by Outside the Lines show at least 16 members of the Spartans football team have been accused of sexual assault or violence against women.
The report also detailed an uncharged rape accusation against two former Michigan State basketball players and a pair of charges related to violence against women involving former undergraduate assistant coach Travis Walton
Walton was placed on administrative leave Friday from his duties as assistant coach of the LA Clippers‘ G League affiliate. In addition, league sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that one of the basketball players accused of rape, Adreian Paynehas been waived by the Orlando Magic‘s G League affiliate in Lakeland, Florida.
Dantonio said accusations about him and his program mishandling sexual assault allegations, including dealing with one complaint by having the player in question speak with his mother, are “completely false.”
Izzo said he did not have a chance to fully digest the report on a game day and declined to answer questions about specifics within it.
“As far as the reports [Friday]we will cooperate with any investigation going forward,” Izzo said. “That’s about all I have to say about it.”
Dantonio held a brief news conference prior to Friday night’s basketball game. He quickly shot down any rumor that he planned to resign and then addressed the Outside the Lines report.
“I have received many questions and inquiries about today’s reports and latest reports. I’m here tonight to say that any accusations of my handling of any complaints of sexual assault are completely false,” Dantonio said. “Every incident reported in that article was documented by either police or the Michigan State Title IX office. I’ve always worked with the proper authorities when dealing with the cases of sexual assault. We have always had high standards in this program, and that will never change.”
Izzo also said that he has no plans to retire.
“I’m not going anywhere, in my mind,” Izzo said. “I’m definitely not retiring. And there’s a lot of things that happened today that are part of life; and I’m gonna worry about my team, I’m gonna worry about the survivors, I’m gonna worry about what I do.”
Michigan State’s administration has been heavily criticized during the last two weeks during the sentencing hearing of former university doctor Larry Nassar. The 54-year-old convicted serial sexual predator sexually assaulted scores of girls and young women when they came to him for medical appointments at the school’s sports clinic.
Mark Hollis, the university’s athletic director since 2008, announced his retirement Friday morning. Although no one has alleged that Hollis had direct knowledge of Nassar’s abuse prior to the former doctor’s arrest in 2016, at least six women have said that they alerted an athletic trainer, coach or staff psychologist about Nassar’s behavior and that no significant action was taken. Some of those warnings came as early as 1997.
“I am not running away from anything, I am running toward something,” Hollis told reporters Friday morning. “Comfort, compassion and understanding for the survivors and our community; togetherness, time and love for my family.”
University president Lou Anna Simon stepped down Wednesday amid growing calls for her departure. William Strampel, who served as Nassar’s supervisor as the former dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine, stepped down from his position in December, citing medical problems. Former gymnastics coach Kathie Klages retired shortly after Hollis suspended her in February for how she handled fallout from Nassar’s firing and arrest.
Several hundred students marched through campus Friday night prior to the game to show support for sexual assault survivors and to promote a culture change at Michigan State concerning sexual assault. The Michigan State student section wore teal shirts at the game to support survivors as well.
Michigan State players said Izzo acknowledged the reports prior to Friday’s game but asked his players to stay focused on basketball.
“I thought the teal shirts was awesome, and I thought the way the crowd responded to the team was special,” Izzo said. “Our top priority in this healing process is for our courageous survivors. As a campus community we do need to come together to be a part of that process.”
Izzo said that as a longtime and high-profile employee of the university he hoped that he could be a big part of aiding that healing process in the future.