MSU’s Dantonio defends decision to dismiss trio

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

East Lansing — Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio defended his decision on Tuesday to dismiss three players charged with sexual assault before letting the legal process play out, while stating the decision to not renew the contract of former recruiting director Curtis Blackwell was for “philosophical” reasons.

Dantonio and athletic director Mark Hollis addressed the media several hours after charges were signed for Josh King, Donnie Corley and Demetric Vance. King was charged with 54B District Court with one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, one count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct and one count of capturing/distributing image of an unclothed person. Vance and Corley Jr. each were charged with one count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct.

Mark Dantonio talks with the media just hours after Judge Richard D. Ball issued arrest warrants for three MSU football players in the matter of an alleged  sexual assault that occurred in an East Lansing apartment.

“It was my decision,” Dantonio said. “The thought process behind this was, quite frankly, that there has been numerous amounts of education thrown at our players, especially our freshman group, from the time that they’ve gotten here. One week before the episode, we had our Title IX administrator come in and talk specifically about a case at another university in this country. So the education, I felt, was there. And they compromised themselves by getting involved in such a situation.

“You have to look at certain things at times, I think, and ask yourself if they break the law — that’s something to be discovered I guess at a later time — but you have to ask yourself about the morals in this. From my perspective, the morals are not where they needed to be. And conversely, this decision was going to be made upon recognition of the facts.”

All three had been suspended since the alleged assault that occurred Jan. 16 at the University Village apartments on campus and hadn’t been named until the charges were sworn in Tuesday by Judge Richard Ball.

Vance was arraigned later on Tuesday, and his attorney, Mary Chartier, said Vance was innocent and would fight the charges. She also was disappointed Dantonio moved so swiftly to dismiss her client from the team.

“It’s been terrible if you can imagine being falsely accused of a crime at 20 years old,” Chartier said. “So it’s just been gut-wrenching for him.

“That’s unfortunate the coach doesn’t understand the presumption of innocence and hasn’t heard any of the evidence, which we will be fighting out in court. I believe (Vance) will be exonerated.”

Dantonio kept his answers focused on the case at hand and opted against answering questions regarding Auston Robertson, who was dismissed in April after being charged with criminal sexual conduct in a separate incident.

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Asked if he felt betrayed by the three players charged Tuesday, Dantonio took a different path.

“I’m angry,” he said. “I don’t want to say betrayed. I’m angry. I feel like the education was there. I feel like I’ve talked about the sense of responsibility that our players have — not to be a good football player, but to be a good person, to do their very best. When you’re a coach at a major college or any college or any high school, you’re used to disappointment, and you deal with disappointment. And you factor in things and say, ‘OK, we’re going to get better.’

“But as this has gone on, there has been a lot of sleepless nights. There’s been a lot of times where I have to sit in my living room and I think about the things that are happening. So take it for what it is.”

Also involved in the case was Blackwell, the former director college advancement and performance that had been suspended with pay before MSU announced last week Dantonio would not renew Blackwell’s contract.

Blackwell was not charged by the Ingham County Prosecutor in the criminal case, but according to the Jones Day report on the football staff’s handling of the incident released on Monday, Blackwell failed to follow proper university procedure in reporting the incident.

On Tuesday, Dantonio said the decision to part ways with Blackwell was not about the recent incident, saying it “was outside of that.”

“I don’t have any regrets about bringing Curtis in,” Dantonio said. “It’s just that things changed this year. Up to that point, I think we were going in the same direction, but in the last four or five months I believed the philosophy just changed.”

Dantonio and Hollis both voiced their concern for the alleged victim and her family and each talked about the fact their daughters have attended Michigan State.

Hollis, who graduated from Michigan State, got emotional talking about his responsibility to the university and the community.

“This is my home,” Hollis said. “It is where my wife and I attended school, where one son and my daughter have earned their degree and where my other son will enroll this fall. I expect my home to be safe, safe to all who live here and safe to all who visit. Like any home its safety requires shared responsibility and accountability. As athletic director I am responsible to make tomorrow better than today.”

Hollis added that senior associate athletic director for compliance Jennifer Smith, senior associate athletic director Alan Haller and Elliot Daniels, the director of learning and retention/academic coordinator for football, will take oversight positions within the department relative to the football program.

“It does not diminish the coaching staff’s accountability nor my expectations of them, for the recruitment and leadership of our student athletes. Rather, it is to ensure that we have programmatic systems in place that are efficient and effective.”