MSU suspends football staff member Blackwell

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

East Lansing — Curtis Blackwell, a staff member with the Michigan State football team, is currently suspended with pay, the university confirmed Tuesday.

Spokesman Jason Cody said he could confirm the suspension but was unable to offer any other details surrounding the circumstances. Blackwell did not respond to a message left by The News.

The news comes as three Michigan State football players are being investigated for sexual assault by Michigan State University Police along with a Title IX investigation. An external law firm is also conducting an independent investigation into football program staff members’ compliance with university policy in connection with the allegations.

As of Tuesday morning, the Ingham County Prosecutor’s office still had not received the completed criminal investigation from the MSU Police.

Blackwell has had a significant impact on recruiting since he was hired in 2013 after spending nine years as a co-director of Sound Mind, Sound Body Football Academy, which runs a series of camps for young football players and teaches life skills as well as football. Blackwell co-founded SMSB 13 years ago in Detroit, a city he knows well.

After graduating from King High, Blackwell earned a football scholarship to Hampton University and earned a degree in sports management. Two years later in 2001, he earned a masters in sports administration from Baylor. He was away from Detroit and felt a draw to return home, where he worked as an assistant coach at Mackenzie High and his alma mater, King. He then co-founded Sound Mind Sound Body.

"You say you always want to do something where you leave your mark on a community," Blackwell told The Detroit News in an interview several years ago. "I consider this to be like my ministry. You don't have to necessarily be in a pulpit, but a life can change forever just because they got that motivation or got access to something they didn't have. This is the one thing I know for sure I can say I did something right, especially in my hometown."

Blackwell wanted to help kids in Detroit have opportunities to attend college.

Detroit camp founder: NCAA decision punishes kids

“When I started working with our team and started Sound Mind Sound Body we wanted to improve lives across our community in Detroit and in the state of Michigan,” he told The News last year. “I love my job at Michigan State, but I’m a representative of the city of Detroit. I can relate to (the kids’) struggles.”

His directive then and throughout his tenure has been to bolster recruiting in Level One states — Michigan and those bordering it.

He has been especially effective in improving Michigan State’s recruiting in the Detroit area, something he has been able to do because of his many contacts in the city through time as an assistant coach and running the Sound Mind Sound Body camps.

Those connections aren’t the only thing Blackwell has done. His bio says he is instrumental in implementing strategic recruiting plans for the Spartans, something that includes getting prospects on campus as often as they can.

The biggest of those events that Blackwell created was the “Spartan 300” effort that began in 2015. That season it began with a large amount of recruits on hand for the first day of practice in August but was highlighted by Michigan State’s prime-time game against Oregon on Sept. 12. On that night, more than 200 recruits were on hand going all the way into the 2018 class.

It was also used by the rest of the university as basketball recruits Miles Bridges, Cassius Winston and Joshua Langford were all there that night. All of them eventually committed and are freshmen this season.

Blackwell said then the goal was to build an identity for Michigan State in the world of recruiting. And it was the football team at the center of it all.

“I think this is what you live for if you’re a football fan, a player, anybody that loves football will want to be a part of big-time college football,” Blackwell said. “And that is what we want them to see. If you want to play big-time college football, you can do it right here in East Lansing.”

Last April, Blackwell was outspoken when the NCAA Council voted to ban summer satellite camps. The Board of Directors then rescinded the decision. He had been concerned about the future for Sound Mind Sound Body and the possibilities for young athletes in the area.

“This is a city of Detroit thing, a state of Michigan thing, a Midwest thing,” Blackwell said at the time. “We were the winner today. This is what you live for, to make a difference in your community.”