East Lansing — The NCAA this week cleared the Michigan State athletic department of any wrongdoing in the Larry Nassar sexual assault scandal, and at the same time said basketball coach Tom Izzo and football coach Mark Dantonio are in the clear, as well.
That, athletic director Bill Beekman said Thursday, is further evidence of what he and those at Michigan State have contended all along in regards to the coaches of the university’s highest-profile teams.
“I do think that for Tom and Mark it’s, to me, yet another signal that they did the right thing,” Beekman told The News. “It’s not really a surprise, it’s a validation of what we already knew.”
The university was notified in a letter sent Wednesday by Jonathan F. Duncan, Vice President of Enforcement for the NCAA, that “it does not appear there is a need for further inquiry,” and that the NCAA review “has not substantiated violations of NCAA legislation.”
Michigan State first received a letter from the NCAA on Jan. 23 requesting the school’s response to any possible violations committed in regard to the case against Nassar, former MSU physician that was convicted of assaulting hundreds of young women, including some students and student-athletes at Michigan State. The university responded on March 23, stating it did not believe it has violated any NCAA legislations.
The NCAA also conducted a second review in response to an ESPN report that questioned how sexual assault cases had been handled by Dantonio and his program as well as Izzo and the men’s basketball program. The letter stated the NCAA also cleared MSU in that matter, saying it “has not substantiated violations of NCAA legislation.”
It was that ESPN story that attempted to paint MSU as having a culture of being lenient on cases involving its athletes.
“Intentionally conflating those things is beyond my comprehension,” Beekman said. “Tom and Mark were accused of not following the rules in a number of circumstances. In several of those cases the issue had been investigated internally or reviewed internally, it had been reviewed or investigated by an external law firm that we had hired, in some cases it had been reviewed by the federal government’s office of civil rights, and now they’ve been reviewed by the NCAA. Each case was a little different and each case was reviewed by different groups, but what I think is sort of extraordinary to me is that in each one of those cases, whichever subset investigated it all reached the same conclusion. They all reached the same conclusion that Tom Izzo and Mark Dantonio followed the rules. How other entities could reach other conclusions escapes me.”
Dantonio, who was quick to deny any wrongdoing when the story first came out in late January, reiterated on Thursday his belief that those in his program have followed proper procedure.
“I have never wavered in my belief that we have done things the right way here at Michigan State,” Dantonio said in a statement. “As I have stated earlier, we’ve always tackled our problems head on and have dealt with issues. We welcome the findings by the thorough NCAA investigation that our program has acted properly with all policies and procedures.”
Izzo was hounded by questions regarding the ESPN story for much of the basketball season. He said repeatedly that he followed protocol in each case and reiterated that on Thursday.
“Throughout my career, I’ve always placed the utmost priority on winning the right way,” Izzo said in a statement. “As I said in February, when faced with disciplinary issues, I’ve handled those in accordance with all appropriate policies and procedures. After a very thorough review, the NCAA provides confirmation that our program has done that.”
The Nassar case has led to significant changes, including the resignation of president Lou Anna K. Simon and the retirement of athletic director Mark Hollis, who announced three days after the initial letter was received by the NCAA that he was stepping down.
On Feb. 5, former governor John Engler was named interim president and on July 16, Engler announced Beekman was being named the permanent athletic director after serving the previous five months as the interim AD.