Dantonio: MSU ‘taking very seriously’ sex assault allegations

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio

East Lansing – There was no movement in the sexual assault case involving three Michigan State football players on Tuesday, but coach Mark Dantonio broke his silence by issuing a statement, his first public comments since National Signing Day on Feb. 1.

“Regarding the ongoing investigations taking place within our program, the allegations are something we’re extremely concerned about and taking very seriously,” Dantonio said in a statement released by the university. “We took immediate action by suspending those involved as soon as we were notified of the situation. Our action is separate from the ongoing criminal and administrative investigations. Those processes will determine if a crime has been committed and also if any university policy has been violated.”

The Ingham County Prosecutor’s office confirmed on Tuesday there has been no change in the status of the case and that Prosecutor Carol Siemon does not plan to speak to the media concerning the case while the police investigation is ongoing.

Nearly two weeks ago, Michigan State University Police sent four warrant requests to the prosecutor, three for sexual assault and a fourth for a non-sexual crime. At that time, Siemon said her office needed more information.

“I have asked the MSU Police Department to continue that investigation and submit to our office additional information and evidence,” she said in a statement on Feb. 16. “Upon the review of those materials, I will determine a charging decision in this matter.”

On Feb. 9. Michigan State announced that MSU Police were investigating a sexual assault that involved three student-athletes for an alleged incident that occurred in late January. The university also began a Title IX investigation and said an outside law firm would conduct and independent review of the football staff’s handling of the incident.

All three players, who still have not been identified, were suspended and removed from campus housing. One staff member, Curtis Blackwell, was also suspended with pay. Blackwell is the director of college advancement and performance and was hired in 2013.

Michigan State, in the meantime, opened spring practice on Saturday with no media availability and without releasing a roster. Both have been standard practice under Dantonio.

That led to Tuesday’s statement.

“With spring practice beginning last weekend and preparation for a new season underway, I feel it’s important to reinforce the core values and beliefs that have built and defined this program during my time at MSU,” Dantonio said. “Since arriving here 11 years ago, my passion has been to lead a program that fosters a culture of integrity, respect and accountability, both on and off the field. That will never change. I have high standards for the program and expect all of our players and staff to conduct themselves in a manner that reflects the values and principles of Michigan State University. Our goal is to develop young men of character who graduate and make a positive impact on society.”

President Lou Anna K. Simon offered her support for Dantonio and athletic director Mark Hollis at the last Board of Trustees meeting on Feb. 17 and the Board approved the rollover in Dantonio’s contract.

Amid the investigation, the football program has also dealt with the departure of offensive lineman Thiyo Lukusa and linebacker Jon Reschke, who stated an insensitive remark toward a former teammate created an atmosphere where it was best he transfer from the program.

“Mark Hollis and the university administration have set forth expectations for this program that I fully support, and we have gone to great lengths to consistently educate all members of the football program on our standards of conduct,” Dantonio said. “I expect all members of the football program to live up to those standards, and I’m doing everything necessary to help throughout this difficult process.

“When the time is appropriate, I will be able to answer questions regarding our program and discuss our team. At this point in time, we have to respect the process of the investigations for everyone involved.”