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The Michigan State athletic department suppressed information related to sexual assault allegations against the football and basketball teams, and along with campus police and university officials, fostered a culture of denial and inaction that stretched far beyond the failures of confronting former MSU athletic doctor Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse, according to an ESPN Outside the Lines report published Friday — not long after longtime athletics director Mark Hollis announced his retirement.
Sixteen players have been accused of sexual assault or violence against women under football coach Mark Dantonio’s watch since 2007, according to interviews and public records obtained by ESPN, despite the football coach addressing four football players in June as the first offenders he dealt with any such issues on.
Izzo had several incidents occur under his watch as well, including one that involved a former undergraduate student-assistant coach, Travis Walton, who was allowed to coach after he had been criminally charged with punching a female MSU student in the face at a bar in 2010. After the Final Four that year, Walton was accused of sexually assaulting a different MSU student. Walton, the 2009 Big Ten defensive player of the year, helped the Spartans reach the 2009 national championship game.
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In ESPN’s report, former Michigan State sexual assault counselor Lauren Allswede was interviewed. The former Michigan State staffer of seven years left the university in 2015 because of how the athletic program covered up sexual assault cases. Allswede said sexual assault cases were handled or investigated by the athletic department, including Hollis and coaches of players accused.
Allswede said: “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. It was all happening behind closed doors. … None of it was transparent or included people who would normally be involved in certain decisions.”
“A lot of the statements that are coming out now … from Mark Hollis or administration claiming there’s no rape culture, is misleading,” Allswede added. “When there’s multiple reports against specific programs, that needs to be followed up on. That needs to be addressed. It’s not a coincidence.”
The report comes after president Lou Anna Simon announced her resignation Wednesday, Hollis’ resignation Friday, and in the wake of Nassar’s sentencing to 40 to 175 years in prison for sexual abuse stemming from his time as the Spartans’ doctor and USA Gymnastics’ team doctor.
The ESPN report overlapped a Detroit Free Press investigation that began in 2017, which uncovered four more allegations of sexual assault against MSU players. The investigation accounted for 11 of the 16 players reportedly accused of sexual assault on Dantonio’s watch since 2007.
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Attempts to contact Dantonio on Friday were not immediately successful.
Hollis in June said the athletic department rarely deals with sexual assault cases.
“To the best of my recollection,” he said, “there is just a few where there has been allegations.”
Asked then if his department has a policy to immediately suspend any athlete being investigated for sexual assault, Hollis said: “I think there’s a wide variety of issues that you could look at where a suspension would be in play.”
“Generally, when a university becomes aware of a situation that involves a legal remedy, what you want to do is allow those student-athletes have full energy to resolve that,” Hollis said. “At the same time, you want to ensure that you continue on with the medical and educational opportunities they have to be successful and healthy.”
MSU is currently under investigation by the NCAA for how it handled the Nassar allegations, and Hollis said in a statement Wednesday that MSU would “cooperate with any investigation.”