— The Sports Xchange —
On the same day Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis resigned in the wake of the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal, ESPN reported on Friday that the Michigan State athletic department suppressed information regarding sexual assault allegations against football and men’s basketball players.
The report on ESPN’s Outside The Lines noted “a pattern of widespread denial, inaction and information suppression of such allegations by officials ranging from campus police to the Spartan athletic department.”
The actions included deleting information from reports, not following appropriate procedures, and officials going to court to withhold athletes’ names in police reports.
The report specifically noted incidents in the Spartans’ football program. It said at least 16 football players have been accused of sexual assault or violence against women since Mark Dantonio became head coach in 2007.
Dantonio was involved in the handling of some the cases, according to the report.
Four Spartans football players — Josh King, Donnie Corley, Demetric Vance and Auston Robertson — were dismissed last year and are facing criminal sexual conduct charges, according to the Detroit Free Press.
However, Dantonio said in June those four were the first offenders he dealt with on those issues.
“We’ve been here 11 years; it’s not happened previously,” Dantonio said at the time, according to the Free Press. “This has been a little bit of a learning experience.
“As you all know, when you look across the country right now, there are issues. There are issues that need to be explored, and people need to continue to be educated. You do the very best that you can do in that endeavor.”
Former Michigan State sexual assault counselor Lauren Allswede was interviewed by ESPN, saying she left in 2015 after seven years on the job because of the athletic department’s practice of covering up sexual assault cases.
She claimed sexual assault cases were handled by the athletic department and coaches.
“Whatever protocol or policy was in place, whatever frontline staff might normally be involved in response or investigation, it all got kind of swept away and it was handled more by administration (and) athletic department officials,” she told ESPN.
“It was all happening behind closed doors. … None of it was transparent or included people who would normally be involved in certain decisions.”
The ESPN report also detailed instances of manipulation of information regarding sexual assault allegations in the men’s basketball program under Tom Izzo.
In its statement provided to ESPN, the school said: “Over the past several years, we have dedicated significant new resources to strengthening our efforts to combat sexual violence. Every day, people across campus are working diligently on this critical issue. We acknowledge, however, that we have sometimes fallen short of our goal and the expectations of others. It is clear more needs to be done, and we are using every resource available to get better.”
The NCAA has begun an investigation into Michigan State’s handling of the Nassar case.
If subsequent probes determine Dantonio did not follow protocol in the handling of these incidents, his position as Michigan’s State’s head coach could be in jeopardy.
Already, the university president and the athletic director have resigned.
Michigan State is expected to have a football team that could challenge for the national championship in 2018. The Sports Xchange ranked the Spartans No. 7 in its early preseason Top 25 published on Friday.