Ex-Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis' deposition remains sealed
Ex-Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis' deposition in the Curtis Blackwell lawsuit, which is believed to have detailed the recruitment of troubled prospect Auston Robertson as well as Hollis' objection to offering a scholarship, will remain sealed, a federal judge has ruled.
Hollis sat for a deposition in federal court in Grand Rapids in October, and none of his testimony has been public in subsequent court filings.
Blackwell's lawyers argued the judge's original ruling to seal the deposition was "clearly erroneous" and "contrary to law," but the argument was dismissed in the ruling by U.S. District Judge Janet T. Neff.
"Although I respect the Judge's decision, I respectfully disagree with the ruling," said Drew Paterson, one of Blackwell's lawyers. "I do not believe that any portion of Mr. Hollis' deposition should be sealed and unfortunately, we cannot appeal the Judge's decision until the entire case is completed."
In the Blackwell lawsuit, only Blackwell has had the majority of his deposition made public.
In Blackwell's deposition, he made many claims against Michigan State and then-football coach Mark Dantonio, including that Dantonio accepted Robertson over the objections of multiple assistant coaches.
Robertson, a four-star defensive lineman from Fort Wayne, Ind., had a lengthy list of sexual-misconduct allegations before he was accepted to Michigan State. He was kicked out of school and off his football team during his senior year of high school, and school officials said Dantonio and Michigan State were aware of the circumstances surrounding his dismissal.
Robertson played as a freshman at Michigan State, but was accused of rape in April 2017. He now is serving up to 10 years in prison in the Upper Peninsula.
Blackwell, Michigan State's former recruiting coordinator, said in his deposition that during a meeting early in 2016, Dantonio asked Blackwell and assistant coaches Dave Warner and Ron Burton their opinions on Robertson. Each expressed concern, with Burton saying he wouldn't want Robertson on campus with his daughter, according to the deposition. Warner and Burton were in charge of recruiting the Indiana area.
After Robertson committed and then de-committed from Michigan State, he eventually ended up in East Lansing after a panel of university officials approved his entry.
Hollis is known to have opposed Robertson's admission to Michigan State.
Blackwell is suing Michigan State, Dantonio, Hollis and former president Lou Anna K. Simon for wrongful termination, saying his dismissal in May 2017 was not over the "philosophical" differences that Dantonio cited, but rather he was a scapegoat for a university reeling in the wake of the Larry Nassar scandal.
Dantonio, while on a train on vacation in Italy, told Blackwell his year-to-year contract wouldn't be renewed.
He also is suing two MSU Police detectives for wrongful arrest following a January 2017 on-campus party at which three football players were accused of sexually assaulting a woman. Blackwell didn't interview with police or the Jones Day law firm that investigated the athletic department's handling of the sexual-assault allegations, and never was charged with a crime.
One of the police officer's depositions was briefly made public, until it was sealed. No other deposition has been made mostly public, though excerpts of Dantonio's have been, specifically three reasons why he let Blackwell go.
The lawsuit, filed in November 2018, has made a series of headlines over the past several months, including recently when Blackwell's lawyers have alleged Dantonio committed multiple NCAA infractions. He is accused of securing jobs for recruits' parents, and for allowing Blackwell to recruit off-campus.
Those allegations were made public a week ago, hours before Dantonio suddenly retired after 13 seasons as head coach. Dantonio said the lawsuit had "zero" to do with his decision.