(97.1 The Ticket) Already under intense fire for its mishandling of the Larry Nassar case, Michigan State was exposed on Friday of long turning a blind eye to sexual assault and gender discrimination in the name of athletics.
According to an Outside the Lines report, both Mark Dantonio’s football program and Tom Izzo’s basketball program have been riddled with cases of sexual assault and violence against women, and faced scant repercussions. The allegations include a gang rape involving four football players and a student assistant on the basketball team punching a woman in the face.
Michigan State’s former sexual assault counselor, Lauren Allswede, left the university in 2015 because she was so disappointed in the lack of justice being pursued in cases that implicated athletes.
“As a Big 10 university with high-profile football, basketball and hockey programs, they want to protect the integrity of the programs — don’t want scandal, don’t want sexual assault allegations, or domestic violence allegations. None of it was transparent,” Allswede told ESPN. “It was very insulated, and people were a lot of times discouraged from seeking resources outside of the athletic department.”
“I think that the athletic department wanted to keep control over that information.”
Outside the Lines uncovered six previously unreported cases of physical violence/sexual assault involving members of the football team from 2009 to 2014. Three of the cases allege rape. At least 16 football players have been accused of sexual assault or violence against women in Dantonio’s 11-year tenure as head coach, according to Outside the Lines.
That includes four players who were kicked off the team last year for sexual assault. When the allegations first surfaced, Dantonio told reporters, “This is new ground for us. We’ve been here 11 years — it has not happened previously.”
In regard to the basketball program, one of the most troubling cases involves Travis Walton, a former player who later became an undergraduate student assistant under Tom Izzo. Walton was accused of twice striking a woman in the face at an East Lansing bar in 2010 and charged with misdemeanor assault and battery. His conviction, weeks later, was a civil infraction for littering.
“It was just very upsetting that someone with a little bit of pull around the school, because he was a basketball star or assistant coach, could kind of just do whatever he wanted and kind of get away with it,” the accuser told ESPN.
That same year, two basketball players, Keith Appling and Adrian Payne, were accused of raping a female student in their dorm room. No charges were filed, but the case eventually led to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights launching a formal investigation into the university’s handling of violence and sexual assault allegations.
According to Outside the Lines, students told OCR investigators that MSU athletes “have a reputation for engaging in sexual harassment and sexual assault and not being punished for it, because athletes are held in such high regard at the university.”
Both Michigan State president Lou Ann Simon and athletic director Mark Hollis have stepped down in the past week.