MSU's Izzo a sounding board for Hollis, Dantonio

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Royal Oak — As Michigan State football coach Mark Dantonio and athletic director Mark Hollis were preparing to meet with the university's Board of Trustees on Monday, they got some support from afar.

Basketball coach Tom Izzo spoke Monday about the tough times the football program is going through, not just on the field -- the Spartans were 3-9 last season, a year after making the College Football Playoff semifinals -- but off the field, as sexual-assault investigations have piled up.

Tom Izzo visits with a patient at Beaumont Hospital on Monday.

"We talk all the time, you know, both Marks," Izzo said at Beaumont Hospital, where he was meeting with young cancer patients as part of Oakland coach Greg Kampe's "Coaches Beat Cancer" event.

"I mean, everything's not always rosy on the basketball side of things, either. We've been through our problems, whether it be a kid, whether it be a situation. Anybody that says it's not happening everywhere is fooling all you guys (media). These are life's problems. Jud Heathcote had a great line -- 'Society's problems are usually your team's problems.'

"So, what's hard now is to know what's really true and what's not true. I'm sure it's hard for you guys, it's hard for us, trying to figure out what's really going on, and that's what we're trying to do."

All offseason, a dark cloud has loomed over the football program, with several players on suspension, as the Ingham County Prosecutor's Office reviews whether to bring charges.

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The players in question haven't been named, though rumors and innuendo have swirled wildly -- especially at the spring game in April, when 15 players listed on the roster didn't play in the scrimmage. No specific reasons were given for any player's absence.

Meanwhile, at least eight underclassmen have left the program this offseason. It's unknown if any of those players are part of the ongoing investigations. MSU Police have submitted four warrant requests to the Ingham County Prosecutor's office, three for alleged sexual assault and one for an alleged undisclosed crime that's not sexual in nature.

Last month, Michigan State decided not to renew the contract of football staffer Curtis Blackwell, the program's director of college advancement and performance who had been suspended with pay since early February.

University officials and Dantonio have been very careful with their public comments as the saga has played out. The football program's problems have come to light as the university also is mired in countless allegations of sexual assault against long-time and renowned athletic trainer Larry Nassar.

Monday's scheduled meeting in East Lansing appeared to be an opportunity for the Board of Trustees to get some information from Hollis and Dantonio on where things stand with the athletic department and the football program, which had made bowl games in each of Dantonio's first nine years.

"You know, I heard about the meeting," Izzo said. "I think, and I don't know this, but I think it's a meeting, 'How do we get things back on track?' And I think that's a good thing, because everybody should be involved. It's like pro teams. You don't see a great pro organization if the owner, the president, the GM and the coach aren't on the same page. ... I wish I was at the meeting, because it can happen to all of us, how quickly things change.

"So I look at it as a positive. This isn't a meeting to decide someone's future, it's a meeting to figure out how everybody can help. At least, that's my impression of the meeting."