While Michigan State interim president John Engler faces his share of criticism as the university continues to deal with the fallout from the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal, he says there should be no concern when it comes to the school’s football and men’s basketball programs.
Speaking at the inaugural Detroit Free Press Breakfast Club meeting at the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham, Engler offered his support for football coach Mark Dantonio and basketball coach Tom Izzo.
“I think in Dantonio and Izzo you’ve got two coaches with great personal integrity who run very clean programs,” Engler said.
Both coaches have been dealing with their own issues after an ESPN report last winter questioned how both programs have handled sexual assault cases in the past. In that report, it said both Dantonio and Izzo had taken part in dealing with some cases themselves, something Dantonio denied immediately. Izzo was hounded by questions throughout the second half of the season, but did not address any specifics.
Engler pointed out Dantonio’s dismissal last summer of four players who had been charged in two separate assault cases as an example of how these types of incidents should be handled.
“He had three outstanding football players who got in to a situation and they paid the price both academically and legally because they’ve all been convicted,” Engler said. “The minute they were accused they were suspend then put through the system, off the team, out of school pretty shortly after that. You’d look at that in terms of NCAA policy — it was textbook, by the book.”
Engler went on to criticize the ESPN report that tied Izzo and Dantonio in with the Nassar scandal, calling it an “embarrassment.”
“They never met Larry Nassar,” Engler said. “They don’t have anything to do with him.”
Engler was also asked about interim athletic director Bill Beekman, who has been in charge since Mark Hollis retired in late January. He said there is still no timetable on finding a permanent replacement.
“To be determined,” Engler said. “No decision has been made, but (Beekman) has done a great job.”
Engler also shot down rumors that Izzo could be the next coach of the Detroit Pistons, who announced this week that Stan Van Gundy would not return next season.
“Tom’s got a team that’s going to compete for a national championship next year,” Engler said. “He’ll be at Michigan State, he’s a Spartan for life.”