By: Will Burchfield
Tom Izzo and Mark Dantonio were thrust into the spotlight on Friday by an Outside the Lines report detailing several allegations of sexual assault within the basketball and football programs at Michigan State.
Both coaches have since addressed the media, with Dantonio saying it’s “completely false” that he mishandled such allegations in the past.
The reporter who broke the story, Paula Lavigne, had a few misgivings with how Dantonio and Izzo responded.
“(Dantonio’s) saying that accusations of (his) handling of many complaints of sexual assault — individually — are false. The thing we say in the story is that he had a role. That’s the indication we have, that he had a role in handling it. So, those little hedge words here and there are important, because maybe the question is, ‘Did he have a role in this, but did he also report it to (former athletic director) Mark Hollis or whoever else?’ There’s a little bit of uncertainty there,” Lavigne told the Jamie and Stoney Show on 97.1 The Ticket.
In regard to Dantonio’s program, Outside the Lines dug up six previously unreported incidents of sexual assault or violence against women. None of those incidents, it should be noted, resulted in charges being filed.
Dantonio was asked on Friday if he was aware of the incidents when they occurred, and responded, “They came to me from the authorities.” This, too, caught Lavigne’s ear.
“Well, when did (it) come to you from the authorities? Because the one thing that we really pressed in our piece is that back in June of 2017, when he’s addressing the four cases from earlier that year, he says at least twice that this is the first time he’s had to deal with this. Well, if he acknowledges that he knew about these other cases back when they happened, that would be contradicting what he said in June,” Lavigne said.
Four MSU football players were kicked off the team last year after being charged with sexual assault.
In regard to Izzo’s program, Outside the Lines referenced several incidents that had already been made public. Two of them involve Travis Walton, a former player who joined Izzo’s staff as a graduate assistant in 2010. In the span of one month that year, Walton was accused of punching a female student in the face at a bar and raping another at an off-campus apartment along with two Michigan State players.
Walton was reportedly fired by Michigan State shortly thereafter, though not before finishing out the season on Izzo’s staff. On Sunday, Izzo was asked why Walton left the program as part of an intense line of questioning by one of Lavigne’s fellow reporters from Outside the Lines.
“To be honest with you,” Izzo said, “I don’t know why he left. I know he went to Europe to play. As you know, I’ll still say I’ll cooperate with any investigation that’s made. I did it then, I did it before.”
Lavigne had a hard time believing that was the truth.
“(Izzo) and Travis Walton were very close, so I can’t imagine that he wouldn’t know why he left Michigan State,” said Lavigne.
ESPN has been accused of taking advantage of the Larry Nassar case by publishing its story the day after the disgraced doctor was sentenced. With Michigan State already under fire within the court of public opinion, it was a convenient time to pile on.
But Lavigne claims ESPN had to wait to run the story because Michigan State wasn’t prompt in responding to requests for public records.
“A lot of the delay was because of having to wait on Michigan State to get documents, to get records. Every time we’d come up with something else we’d make a request, and they would take months to get back to us. Then the Nassar stuff started really getting going and we stepped back and said, ‘Is there a bigger-picture story to be done here and is there a need to look at these things together as opposed to separately?'” said Lavigne.