Investigating firm: Mark Dantonio handled MSU cases properly

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Mark Dantonio

East Lansing – An external investigation into the Michigan State football staff’s handling of two separate sexual assault allegations involving four different players found no evidence of wrongdoing.

The report completed by the Jones Day law firm was released on Monday and said coach Mark Dantonio and his staff complied with Michigan State’s policy on “Relationship Violence & Sexual Misconduct,” or RVSM policy.

“In both instances, we found that senior leaders within the football program and the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics (Athletic Department) complied with the RVSM policy by promptly and accurately reporting the information they learned about the underlying incidents to departments within the University that are tasked with investigating and responding to such incidents,” the report read. “We also found no evidence that senior leaders within the football program or Athletic Department attempted to impede, cover up, or obstruct the Office of Institutional Equity’s (OIE’s) investigation into the underlying incidents.”

However, the report did say evidence suggested one staff member violated policy but it was unable to determine the severity of any violation because that staff member did not speak with investigators.

A Michigan State spokesman on Monday confirmed that staff member was Curtis Blackwell, who was the director of college advancement and performance and oversaw Michigan State’s recruiting efforts.

Blackwell was suspended with pay on Feb. 9 and after two one-month extensions, the university confirmed last week that Dantonio decided not to renew Blackwell’s contract, effectively ending his employment with Michigan State.

Blackwell’s involvement surrounded the first of the two cases. It occurred Jan. 16 on campus and resulted in the suspension of three players. Michigan State University Police requested four warrants – three for sexual assault and one for a non-sexual crime. On Monday, the Ingham County Prosecutor announced sexual assault charges for the three players but declined to seek charges on the fourth warrant.

The report states Dantonio learned of the incident in a regular meeting with the reporting player and immediately called director of OIE, Ande Durojaiye, as well as athletic director Mark Hollis and senior associate athletic director Alan Haller. It also says Dantonio did not learn the names of the players allegedly involved in the incident until after MSU Police had identified the players, at which point Dantonio suspended the players identified.

In regards to Blackwell, the reports says he spoke with the three players allegedly involved and “communicated with a parent of one of those players regarding the incident, and failed to report any information he learned to OIE or MSU PD.”

It went on to say no evidence was obtained that shows Blackwell spoke to anyone outside of the university about the incident, including the football staff.

The second case reviewed occurred off-campus on April 9 and resulted in third-degree criminal sexual conduct charges against Auston Robertson, who was dismissed from the team by Dantonio.

The report stated Dantonio was made aware of the incident when a player called him to report a teammate had committed the assault. From there, the report states, Dantonio followed university policy in reporting the incident, as he did in the first case.

On Monday following a regular work session that included briefings from Dantonio and Hollis, the MSU Board of Trustees issued of statement of support for both Dantonio and Hollis, as well as president Lou Anna K. Simon.

Simon also addressed the release of the report at that time, saying, “It will indicate Coach Dantonio and his team, particularly Coach Dantonio, handled this in the utmost manner with integrity and with swiftness and consistent with the policy. So that takes all those issues off the board with respect to coach Dantonio and the team that is currently there.”