Mark Dantonio defends his handling of sexual assault claims

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Mark Dantonio makes a statement Friday at the Breslin Center, defending himself against an ESPN report.

East Lansing — Michigan State football coach Mark Dantonio called a report Friday stating he handled a sexual assault claim against one of his players individually as “completely false.”

Dantonio spoke at the Breslin Center less than 20 minutes before the basketball team was set to face Wisconsin.

Earlier Friday, less than an hour after athletic director Mark Hollis stepped down in the wake of the Larry Nassar sexual assault scandal, ESPN published a report that said Michigan State had 16 players during Dantonio’s tenure as Michigan State’s head coach that had been investigated for sexual assault or violence toward women.

It said that in one of those instances Dantonio handled it himself and directed the player to speak with his mother about the accusation.

“I have received many questions and inquiries about today’s reports, or the latest reports,” Dantonio said from a prepared statement. “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.”

Dantonio had intended to not take any questions but decided he’d answer two. The first asked him about at least one report on Twitter Friday afternoon that said he and Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo were planning to step down by the end of the week.

“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 told Fox Sports prior to Friday's game that there was "no truth" to the rumors he plans to retire.