EAST LANSING (WWJ) – Michigan State University Interim President John Engler is taking aim at a highly publicized ESPN report regarding allegations of sexual assault within the school’s sports programs, calling it “sensationalized”

With regard to MSU football and basketball, ESPN’s Outside the Lines referenced several alleged incidents that had already been made public, laying blame for an atmosphere that purportedly permitted it on coaches Tom Izzo and Mark Dantonio.

In an email to the MSU community on Tuesday, Engler touched on what’s being done to investigate sexual assault on campus in the wake of the massive Larry Nassar abuse case — also specifically referencing the ESPN claims.

“I viewed with great concern a recent ESPN report that gathered considerable national attention in no small part because it showed a promotional graphic of our head football and men’s basketball coaches with Larry Nassar. This was a sensationalized package of reporting that contained allegations and insinuations that we are now reviewing. The coaches were asked to refrain from comment while the reports were examined. That has been a burden that must be lifted. I hope that MSU can soon respond in full and affirm the integrity and probity that has been the hallmark of these two respected coaches.”

Dantonio, for his part, has denied that the ESPN report contained any new information, stating that he has always worked with the proper authorities when dealing with cases of sexual assault. Izzo said roughly the same, telling reporters: “As I said before,we’ll cooperate with any investigation and always have. We’ve done it before and we’ll do it moving forward. That’s about all I’m going to say on it. We did cooperate with everything.”

Asked respond to Engler’s comments, ESPN said — in an email sent to 97.1 The Ticket — “We stand by our reporting.”

All of this comes after Nassar, a former campus sports doctor, was sentenced to two 40 year prison terms — found guilty of sexual assaulting young female patients under the guise of treatment, many when they were teens. He was convicted separately on federal child pornography charges.

Michigan State spokesman Kent Cassella said last week that MSU police have received more than 60 criminal reports against Nassar since Jan. 16, 2018. That brings the total as of Feb. 5 to more than 190 since Sept. 1, 2016.

In Tuesday’s email, Engler acknowledged that questions about how something on this scale could have happened at MSU, and what must be done to prevent it from ever happening again are the subject of multiple inquiries.

At the federal level, the U.S. Department of Education is conducting a Clery program review, the U.S. Senate has requested information, and the U.S. House of Representatives has two inquiries underway. The NCAA also is seeking information from us. In Michigan, the House of Representatives is requesting production of documents and the Attorney General’s Office, at MSU’s request, is conducting an investigation, Engler noted.

“MSU is committed to cooperating with all official requests, and I’m grateful for the cooperation that faculty and staff have given the General Counsel’s office and the law firms that are assisting the university,” Engler said. [Read the complete email here].

Engler said last week that he was disappointed after state authorities investigating the school’s handling of the Nassar case executed search warrants on campus, saying the prosecutor’s decision for investigators to visit without warning was “very much at odds” with the school’s pledge to cooperate.


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