Engler says MSU athletics addressing sex assault issues

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

Michigan State University’s premier athletic programs are doing what’s necessary to address campus sexual assault, says interim President John Engler.

“They’ve got processes in place to react if an athlete does become a problem,” Engler says. “The response to misconduct or criminality is there.”

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Very early in his 10-week tenure, Engler gave both football coach Mark Dantonio and basketball coach Tom Izzo votes of confidence, though both teams have been the target of numerous sexual assault complaints.

Yet Engler contends the coaches have been flawless in their response, offering particular praise for Dantonio’s handling of an incident in which three former players pleaded guilty to lesser charges in a case brought by a young woman who says they raped her.

“Dantonio with the football players is a textbook for NCAA,” Engler says. “When the incidents initially were reported the reaction on the part of the coach was absolutely perfect. I have complete confidence in the leadership of those two individuals (Izzo and Dantonio).”

Still, changes are being put in place in the athletic department.

“The department is going to aided in its ability to communicate by some of the changes we’ve made in terms of who gets informed,” Engler says. “We had a situation, for example, where a report that went to to our Title IX office would be immediately reported to the police, but the police didn’t have a concurrent obligation to tell the university.

“They could continue the investigation for a period of time without the university knowing, putting the coach, the department and the university in the position of being asked why they didn’t do something. Now we will get the information and react to it.”

Engler credits both coaches with implementing prevention strategies.

“They’re doing a lot once the athletes arrive here in terms of communicating about appropriate behavior.” he says. “There’s a tremendous amount of education that goes on. They’re also still dealing with teenagers, and so you have, just as you do in the Greek system and the residence halls, people who go across the line.”

Engler says he spoke to the football team about the importance of using good judgment, and will do the same for all students.

“We’re now looking at what we do in orientation, the first week of arrival, first semester, first year,” he says. “Since 70 percent of our students come from Michigan, we’re now even looking at what we can do in high school.”