DETROIT (WWJ) – As Michigan State men’s basketball makes its way into the madness of March – the team’s coach is setting new guidelines for media.
The Hall of Fame coach, Tom Izzo, has stepped into the fray of the Larry Nassar abuse scandal and paid the price on social media — then spent time shortly after that trying to recreate the original message intended.
“Guys, we’re not answering any questions – my team – anymore about anything but basketball. That’s going to be it. It’s basketball questions. I owe it to them and I mean that strongly – I owe it to them and I owe it to my staff – that we’re going to focus in because it’s been a lot of distraction …” Izzo said during an interview posted on Twitter.
In January, shortly after the disgraced doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison for sexually assaulting female patients he worked with while at Michigan State University and for USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians — Izzo was asked about the case.
“I hope the right person was convicted,” Izzo told reporters.
Many people recoiled at this comment, understandably so, including the mother of Aly Raisman. She wondered on Twitter whether Izzo was a “moron” or a “liar” for what he said.
Izzo released a statement in the days that followed explaining himself:
“On Friday night in my postgame press conference, I used the wrong words when trying to express my belief that Larry Nassar and anyone else who broke the law should be held accountable for their crimes.
If anything, Izzo invited controversy by voicing support for Simon hours after the Board of Trustees did the same. Simon was named by The Detroit News as someone who knew about accusations against Nassar and did nothing to prevent him from having access to new victims.
Said Izzo, “There is no way I could waver on the support for my administration or my president in knowing the 35 years I’ve spent here, what she has done for this university, what she stood for. Not only athletics — it’s a small part of it — (but) for women’s groups, for different groups. I think she’s been a champion.”
Typically forthright with the media, Izzo sidestepped questions related to an Outside the Lines report that suggested multiple Michigan State basketball and football players have gotten away with sexual assault in the last several years. The report painted Izzo and football coach Mark Dantonio as central figures in a scandal of cover-ups and neglect.
During the team practice day — Izzo wanted to lay the framework for his team and himself — not to go down that path again.
“We’re going to work our tail off to help the healing community,” said Izzo. “We’re going to do whatever it takes to help that process.
“And I’m trying to do it the best I can do — now it’s going to be basketball time — we’re going to see if we can make this incredible year more special.”
The new mantra is in place.