Michigan State’s athletic department has a widespread history of not handling allegations of sexual assault and violence properly dating back more than a decade, a detailed and damning report released by ESPN’s Outside the Lines alleges.
The report came out Friday afternoon, hours after Spartans athletic director Mark Hollis announced his retirement in the wake of the Larry Nassar scandal. There have been incidents involving both Michigan State’s football program under Mark Dantonio and the basketball program under Tom Izzo, ESPN’s reporting found.
From the ESPN report:
An Outside the Lines investigation has found a pattern of widespread denial, inaction and information suppression of such allegations by officials ranging from campus police to the Spartan athletic department, whose top leader, Mark Hollis, announced his retirement on Friday. The actions go well beyond the highly publicized case of former MSU athletic physician Larry Nassar.
Over the past three years, MSU has three times fought in court — unsuccessfully — to withhold names of athletes in campus police records. The school has also deleted so much information from some incident reports that they were nearly unreadable. In circumstances in which administrators have commissioned internal examinations to review how they have handled certain sexual violence complaints, officials have been selective in releasing information publicly. In one case, a university-hired outside investigator claimed to have not even generated a written report at the conclusion of his work. And attorneys who have represented accusers and the accused agree on this: University officials have not always been transparent, and often put the school’s reputation above the need to give fair treatment to those reporting sexual violence and to the alleged perpetrators.
Here are some of the incidents outlined in the report:
- In 2010, Travis Walton, a former Michigan State star who was on Izzo’s staff as an undergraduate assistant at the time, allegedly punched a woman at a bar. Walton was allowed to travel with the team after being arrested, and his assault and battery case was eventually dismissed. That same year, Walton and two Michigan State players were accused of sexually assaulting a female Michigan State student.
- The report claims that at least 16 Michigan State football players have been accused of sexual assault or violence since the beginning of Dantonio’s tenure in 2007. However, Dantonio told reporters in June 2017 that he was dealing with players facing those allegations for the first time.
- Former Michigan State sexual assault counselor Lauren Allswede told Outside the Lines that serious complaints against student-athletes were handled solely by the athletic department and sometimes even by coaches. According to Allswede, Dantonio once handled a sexual assault accusation against a player by having the player tell his mother about it.
Additionally, the Lansing State Journal reported that Michigan State did not share the full findings of an investigation into Nassar by its Title IX officers with one of former doctor’s accusers in 2014.
When Hollis announced he was stepping down Friday, he noted that he was “not running from anything.” He learned about the Outside the Lines report on Thursday, according to ESPN’s Dan Murphy.
"I'm not running away from anything," Hollis' statement said. https://t.co/zI1MhMpAEs
— Shannon Ryan (@sryantribune) January 26, 2018
As of Friday afternoon, Michigan State had not named an interim athletic director.