East Lansing — Michigan State played a basketball game on Friday night, but it was simply a backdrop to one of the more dramatic days on campus in recent memory.
With virtually the entire student section wearing the color teal in support of sexual assault victims, No. 6 Michigan State took care of business on the court, beating Wisconsin, 76-61, at the Breslin Center. It was the third straight victory for the Spartans as they hit the road to take on Maryland on Sunday.
All of that took a backseat, however, as a whirlwind day that included the retirement of athletic director Mark Hollis came to a close with a packed house at the Breslin Center to watch a national-championship contending basketball team.
Hollis announced his retirement shortly after 11 a.m., the second Michigan State official to step down in the wake of the Larry Nassar sexual assault scandal. On Wednesday, university president Lou Anna K. Simon resigned just a day after Nassar, the former Michigan State doctor, was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for assaulting more than 150 young women, some of those Michigan State students and student athletes.
“Many if not all of those Spartans are hurting, especially the courageous survivors of Larry Nassar’s abuse,” Hollis said. “My heart breaks — my heart breaks — thinking about the incomprehensible pain all of them and their families have experienced. Along with many I was brought to tears as I listen to statements. There simply aren’t the right words to express our sympathy.
“Our campus and beyond has been attacked by evil, an individual who broke trust and so much more. As a campus community, we must do everything we can to ensure that this never happens again and make sure that any sexual assault never occurs.”
Within an hour of Hollis stepping down, ESPN published a report into Michigan State and its athletic department saying it “found a pattern of widespread denial, inaction and information suppression of such allegations by officials ranging from campus police to the Spartan athletic department … well beyond the highly publicized case of former MSU athletic physician Larry Nassar.”
The report referenced the Nassar case but goes much further and says, “Even MSU's most-recognizable figures, football coach Mark Dantonio and basketball coach Tom Izzo, have had incidents involving their programs, Outside the Lines has found.”
It said at least 16 football players since 2007, when Dantonio took over, have been accused of sexual assault or violence against women.
On Friday night, minutes before tip-off, Dantonio met with the media to deny part of the report that said he handled one of the cases on his own.
“I have received many questions and inquiries about today’s reports, or the latest reports,” Dantonio said. “I’m here tonight to say that any accusations of my handling of any complaints of sexual assault individually are completely false.
“Every incident reported in that article was documented by either police or the Michigan State Title IX office. I’ve always worked with the proper authorities when dealing with cases of sexual assault. We have always had high standards in this program and that will never change. The values that we teach to everyone in this program will be enforced.”
As for reports that he intended to resign, Dantonio also refuted those.
“That is absolutely false,” Dantonio said. “I am here for Spartan Nation, I am here for our football program and for my family and look the people in the eye who I guess instigated those reports.”
Izzo, too, denied any plans to step down, telling FS1 before the game there is “no truth” to any rumors about him resigning.
Miles Bridges scored 24 points and grabbed seven rebounds for Michigan State (19-3, 7-2 Big Ten), while Nick Ward had a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds to go along with five blocked shots. Cassius Winston added 17 points and six assists with Jaren Jackson Jr. scoring 11 point and blocking four shots to become Michigan State’s single-season leader with 75.
Ethan Happ scored 23 for Wisconsin (10-12, 3-6), which lost for the fifth time in the last six games. Brevin Pritzl added 13 points for the Badgers.