East Lansing — Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo said he’s committed to helping his university heal in the wake of the Larry Nassar sexual assault scandal.
He did so while brushing off rumors of his impending resignation.
“I’m not going anywhere, in my mind. I’m definitely not retiring,” Izzo said after Michigan State defeated Wisconsin, 76-61, on Friday night at the Breslin Center.
“I’m gonna stick to worrying about the survivors, I really am. I tried to say what I could say last week. And I’m gonna say what I can say this week. I’m gonna stick with the survivors. I’m gonna try to do my part in helping them heal.”
The game culminated an unprecedented day on campus as the fallout from the Nassar case continued. The former Michigan State doctor was sentenced this week to up to 175 years in prison for sexually assaulting more than 150 young women, some of them MSU students and student-athletes.
On Friday morning, athletic director Mark Hollis announced his retirement less than an hour before ESPN released a report on MSU 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.”
Izzo said he has seen the report but hasn’t had time to examine it thoroughly, saying he’d wait to pass any judgement.
Instead, he focused on the show of support from the Michigan State student section — most of the Izzone wore teal shirts in support sexual assault victims — and talked about the MSU community moving forward.
“First of all, I want to thank our students. I thought the teal shirts (were) awesome,” Izzo said. “I thought the way the crowd responded to our team was special. But honoring our survivors was really neat that our students did it. Still, our top priority is for our courageous survivors. As a campus community, we do need to come together as Spartans to be a part of that healing process, and that’s gonna fall on all of us.
“As far as the reports today, we will cooperate with any investigation going forward, as we have always done.”
Izzo said he wasn’t going to say much more, even sticking to his message when asked about the retirement of Hollis, his longtime friend.
“There’s a lot of things that happened today that are part of life,” Izzo said. “I’m gonna worry about my team. I’m gonna worry about the survivors, and I’m gonna worry what I do.”
One internet rumor early in the day said Izzo and football coach Mark Dantonio were considering stepping down. Both refuted that on Friday as Dantonio spoke to the media before the basketball game.
“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.”
Michigan State’s players never believed Izzo was stepping down.
“I saw that somewhere but I really didn’t buy into that one,” sophomore Cassius Winston said. “Coach Izzo is one of us. We in this together.”
Winston admitted things have been different around campus, but the support of his fellow students Friday night was impressive.
“The crowd did a great job of bringing the energy and supporting us,” Winston said. “They wore the teal shirts, which was cool for the survivors, showing their support. I wish we would have known something about it but we really didn’t know much about that.
“But they did a great job of still coming with that energy, supporting us, supporting Coach Izzo and everything. So, it was great energy.”
Winston said if he and his teammates were aware of the Izzone’s plan to wear teal, they would have done the same and still could in the future.
“I definitely think we would have worn teal warmups or anything just cause our hearts go out to the survivors, too,” Winston said. “I don’t make the decisions, but (wearing teal in the future) is definitely something that could be up there.”
Michigan State has a quick turnaround on the court, hitting the road Saturday to prepare for a 1 p.m. tip-off Sunday at Maryland. In the meantime, Izzo says he’ll focus on two jobs — getting his team prepared to play while also focusing on everything happening on campus.
“I’m concerned with the healing process and I want to be a big part of helping it heal,” Izzo said. “I don’t know what I’m gonna do down the road, but I will be involved in some ways in helping this healing process for both our community and those survivors.”