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East Lansing – Mark Dantonio met with the media on Tuesday to address the ongoing sexual assault investigation involving three Spartans players.

What he didn’t want to do was talk football. That will come Saturday when Michigan State closes spring practice with its annual Green and White game at Spartan Stadium.

It comes at a difficult time for the program considering there is an ongoing criminal investigation involving three unidentified players. Putting his team out before the media and the public on Saturday runs the risk of misidentifying those involved, something Dantonio understands but hopes won’t take away from those on the field.

“I’ll allow our players to play with their respective numbers on their backs,” Dantonio said. “Some having been suspended for other reasons is very true, so I would be careful to paint a brush over our entire program.”

Dantonio said there were plenty of discussions within the football program and university administration how to handle the fact the game might be played before the Ingham County Prosecutor had made a decision on possible charges.

Postponing or canceling the game was never a serious option, Dantonio said.

“Only very, very slightly – this is one way we could go,” Dantonio said of postponing or canceling. “But that really wasn’t taken into account very seriously. But I do think it was a group effort, a team effort, reaching all the way to our administration and to our president’s office. Because I think it’s important that we all work together on this and not have our own separate identity in this situation.”

CLOSE

Michigan State football coach Mark Dantonio met with the media for the first time since national signing day (Feb. 1) to acknowledge the seriousness of allegations of sexual assault against three players on the Spartans football team.

In most years, Michigan State wouldn’t be dealing with the problem of a game taking place in front of fans and on the Big Ten Network this early in the spring.

Michigan State has routinely had one of the latest spring games in the Big Ten under Dantonio, playing it on April 23 last year. It was played on April 24 in 2015 and April 25 in 2014.

But the fact the Spartans didn’t qualify for a bowl game had Dantonio pushing to get his team back to football earlier than usual.

“I moved it up because we lost our bowl practice opportunities and because I wanted to start playing football again as soon as possible,” Dantonio said. “So we made that decision very early in January or really in December to possibly do this. I knew that the weather might be a little bit of a factor but I felt like we pushed through that and we’re going into Day 12 today.

“We have a young football team, and it gives us opportunities on the back end. But again, I really don’t want to talk about football. We can talk about those things maybe more after the spring game.”

Moving on

The three players suspended because of the investigation aren’t the only ones that won’t be on the field Saturday.

Michigan State has already seen linebacker Jon Reschke and offensive lineman Thiyo Lukusa leave the program, and on Tuesday, Dantonio said linebacker Drake Martinez will transfer.

“We talked with Thiyo; there’s no problem between Thiyo Lukusa and myself. He just wasn’t enjoying football,” Dantonio said. “The Jon Reschke situation is pretty much detailed in the papers, as well, so I don’t think there’s any reason to talk about those. But those would be the three guys to the best of my knowledge here.”

Lukusa, who played last season as a true freshman, transferred and has quit playing football. Reschke, a redshirt junior last season who missed most of the year with an ankle injury, left the team after an incident in which he said he made an insensitive comment toward a former teammate.

MSU spring game

When: Saturday, 3 p.m.

Where: Spartan Stadium

Admission: Free; gates D, J and K will open at 1:30 p.m.

Youth clinic: Children age 8-12 are invited to attend a youth clinic from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. on the John and Becky Duffey Practice Fields, located off Shaw Lane. Registration is not required.

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

Twitter @mattcharboneau

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