Dantonio: Easy call to play LJ Scott after arrest
East Lansing — When LJ Scott was arrested Wednesday for a seventh driving infraction in the past two years, coach Mark Dantonio had a decision to make.
Would the junior running back play in No. 18 Michigan State’s game against Indiana on Saturday? If he did, how much?
A difficult decision for some, but not for Dantonio.
“Ultimately, sometimes you’re put in situations where you have to make very tough decisions,” Dantonio said after Michigan State’s 17-9 victory. “However, this was not one of them.”
Scott did not start, but by the second series of the game, he was in at running back. He led the Spartans with 87 yards on 22 carries and caught two passes for 15 yards before adding an 18-yard touchdown run to close out the scoring in the fourth quarter.
Some questioned Dantonio’s decision after Scott accepted a plea deal and paid $560 in fines and costs Friday to resolve the ticket he received Wednesday for driving on a suspended license, according to court records.
But Dantonio was making no apologies.
“I guess the biggest way to say it is young people are gonna make mistakes but they’re my young people,” Dantonio said. “It’s like my family. So, you’re gonna try and take care of those guys, you’re gonna try and usher them forward and try and help the resolve their issues as best you can.
“I felt like he got a speeding ticket and everything else was sort of in order. There were extenuating circumstances as to a fine being paid, etc. But it’s a long story. If you want 15, 20 minutes that’s what you’d get. It is a very long story but hey, I watched him parallel park, OK. So, it’s not like we weren’t on it. I watched him parallel park, all that kind of stuff.”
Player discipline is a hot-button issue around Michigan State after an offseason that included four players being dismissed from the team after being charged in two separate sexual assault cases.
So there was plenty of attention on how Dantonio would handle Scott, even with his legal issues being far less severe than those the Spartans dealt with after the end of last season.
“We’re just trying to complete the circle for our players and I know publicly it’s tough to look at sometimes, but they’re our players. They’re my players,” Dantonio said. “I have a personal relationship with those players and their mothers and their families. Sometimes you have to make gut calls and look at it in that capacity and that’s what I did. He paid with public ridicule certainly, and he paid financially, certainly. And he paid a little bit in terms of on the field, but we needed him to play, too. We needed to move forward.”
Michigan State needed Scott considering Gerald Holmes missed his second straight game with an injury and Madre London fumbled in the first quarter to set up Indiana’s first field goal.
Scott, for his part, tried to downplay the past few days.
“I was not (embarrassed). I was not at all,” Scott said. “A lot of people just didn’t know what happened. … I’m glad it’s all cleared up so nothing like that happens again.
“I bring the same intensity every week. I just tried to put that on the backburner and stay focused.”