Izzo: Vandalizing Magic statue worse than Sparty

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

East Lansing — A statue honoring basketball great Earvin “Magic” Johnson on the campus of Michigan State University was vandalized with yellow paint just days before Saturday’s marquee rivalry pairing of the Spartans and Wolverines in Ann Arbor.

The statue of Johnson had an “M’’ and the words “BEAT STATE” painted on it. Michigan’s colors are maize and blue.

The vandalism was discovered late Thursday morning, Michigan State spokesman Jason Cody said. By late morning, it had been cleared. A wall behind the iconic Sparty statue was also sprayed, and a yellow M was sprayed near Munn Field, Cody said.

MSU basketball coach Tom Izzo was not amused at Big Ten media day when asked about the vandalism.

“There’s a lot of great Michigan kids, and there’s some idiots — and there’s some idiots on our side that do crazy things,” Izzo said.

“Messing with Sparty is a bad thing, just like messing with their ‘M’ is a bad thing, but messing with Magic — that’s a worse thing,” Izzo said, because of what he’s done for not only MSU, but for the game of basketball.

UM, MSU fans form defensive lines in East Lansing, Ann Arbor

Izzo joked that he would have the basketball team join MSU’s band and other students in protecting the statues on campus.

“We’ll have him covered from now on,” Izzo said.

Michigan State senior guard Denzel Valentine said the football team will make the next move for Spartan fans.

“That’s a new one for Michigan. The Sparty statue is well-guarded so I guess they go to the next statue over. But it’s cool. We’ll be classy about it and let our game do the talking Saturday and come out with the win,” he said. “It’s all fun and games. It will just make it a little bit better once we beat them Saturday, a little more satisfaction.”

While campus police have no witnesses at this time and there were no cameras in the affected areas, “it is vandalism, it is a crime,” Cody said, adding anyone caught would be made to answer for it in court.

“We have no way of knowing whether that’s a UM student or a local high school kid who did that,” Cody said. “I’d like to think that Michigan and Michigan State fans are more classy than to resort to vandalism.”

Supporters of Michigan and Michigan State have been on guard duty to prevent possible vandalism to campus landmarks ahead of Saturday’s game. At the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, students are guarding the block “M’’ on the Diag.

No. 12 Michigan hosts No. 7 Michigan State.

Staff writer Matt Charboneau and the Associated Press contributed.