Revisiting Michigan State

There has been a lot of discussion about the OTL report since my last post that needs to be addressed. Most notably the intensity of the responses to this report, particularly from Michigan State supporters and media members who cover Michigan State athletics. I want to break down these responses into a few categories and provide some additional information to help clarify some points of contention.

Why were players named who were accused of sexual assault but not charged?

This seems to be the most commonly posed question of the original ESPN report as well as their follow-up report this week in which a current MSU basketball player was named  as being accused of sexual assault but not charged. Without context it may sound unfair to name this player as that has not been the practice of local media covering MSU when accusations occur; their local media has waited until charges have been filed to name the player. However, withholding names of college athletes accused but not charged with sexual assault is not a common practice nationally. Here are some examples where athletes had not been charged with sexual assault yet were still named:

Boise State– Names and pictures of the accused appear in the article, yet no charges had been made.

No criminal charges have been brought against the players.

http://www.idahostatesman.com/sports/college/mountain-west/boise-state-university/boise-state-football/article79987567.html

UCLA– Name appears in article, no charge.

Charges have not been filed.

http://www.latimes.com/sports/sportsnow/la-sp-sn-torian-white-sexual-assault-ucla-football-20131120-story.html#nt=featured-content

Minnesota– Name and picture appears in article, no charge.

Prosecutors declined to charge him, and a university probe cleared him of wrongdoing.

Oregon– Name and picture in article, investigation ongoing but no mention of charges.

http://katu.com/news/local/former-u-of-o-basketball-player-under-investigation-for-sexual-assault

North Carolina– Named in video report, no charges.

https://collegefootball.ap.org/video/video-unc-football-player-accused-sexual-assault

Houston Baptist– Names and pictures in the report, no charges.

http://www.fox26houston.com/news/two-hbu-football-players-accused-of-sexual-assault

NC State– Names and pictures in the report, no charges.

http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/crime/article173586621.html

And the most famous case of a player being named with no charges, Jameis Winston at Florida State.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/no-charges-for-jameis-winston-in-alleged-2012-rape/

Perhaps the confusion comes from the common practice of not naming victims of sexual assault accusations? Claiming it is uncommon to name the accused, however, is simply not true.

Why did Izzo and Dantonio’s picture appear in a graphic with Larry Nassar about this report?

A graphic appeared on screen in the studio background of the Outside the Lines when their report aired which depicted Izzo and Dantonio in the foreground and Nassar in the background. This apparently was controversial because it could have been interpreted as all three of these men committed the same crimes? I’m not sure of specifically why this sparked so much outrage, but it is worth addressing. ESPN used this graphic to advertise their report, a report which included all three of these names. To me, its intent appeared to be to entice anyone who saw the graphic to want to read the article. I can’t imagine how anyone would see the graphic and think that all three of these men were convicted of the same crime, and if someone did have that initial reaction, wouldn’t they be likely to read the article to verify that rather than just assume their initial reaction was correct? Perhaps that is assuming too much from the average ESPN viewer, but I really don’t think it is. If a reader is able to clarify why this graphic was controversial, please explain in the comments.

This article was purely to attack Izzo and Dantonio, right?

The report aimed more at a culture at Michigan State which bred ignorance to reports of sexual assault. Were Izzo and Dantonio included as pieces of that culture? Yes. Were they the only pieces? No, far from it. A great explanation of this report’s intentions:

 

ESPN is not credible, therefore they should be attacked for their reporting

This is such an odd strategy to deploy. There were a ton of accusations of sexual assault committed by Michigan State athletes that this report shared. In each case, there were no charges. However:

This is the problem. Michigan State needs to explain how they have handled accusations and provide evidence that they have done so properly. The burden is not on ESPN to prove anything; they shared as much information as they were able to obtain, despite repeated attempts by Michigan State to deny them information.

In September 2014, ESPN submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to MSU for incident reports involving 301 student-athletes. The university responded to the request with two sets of records but redacted the names of student-athletes listed as suspects, witnesses or victims, according to the Court of Appeals’ opinion

https://www.lansingstatejournal.com/story/news/local/2015/08/19/court-sides-espn-public-records-dispute-msu/32013325/

Michigan State University lost a public records lawsuit against ESPN for the second time in two years.

https://amp.lansingstatejournal.com/amp/676752001

It’s not just Michigan State supporters who are attacking ESPN either. From the most recent report:

Outside the Lines reached out Thursday afternoon to multiple university officials and Washington for comment. None responded to calls, voicemails or emails. Outside the Lines also reached out to John Truscott, who was hired recently to lead the university’s crisis communications efforts. Truscott, in response to a series of questions about the alleged incident and a request to release the police report, wrote in an email that he was not in a position to know anything about the case; when asked whether he would provide someone at the university who could answer questions or provide a statement, he responded that “I’m just saying we don’t have any information at this time but will certainly look into it. We don’t have access to police reports, nor does the police department inform anyone of actions such as this.”

Yet here is how Truscott responds on Twitter to this very same report:

Interesting that the leader of MSU’s crisis communication efforts is “not in a position to know anything about the case,” and claims that “we don’t have any information at this time” yet has the gall to then attack the reporter’s ethics on Twitter. Also, refer back to the beginning of this post to debunk the “you can’t name the accused with no charges” stance.

Additional Information

ESPN has shared a lot of information so far, and likely will continue to do so going forward until Michigan State starts talking. Below are a few items I’ve found or been pointed to while doing some of my own research on this story (something I suggest that everyone who has been following this story should do. Rather than spending time attacking ESPN, use that time and energy to find the truth).

The beginning of the police’s interview with Adreian Payne. Note that this is definitely not the entire interview, as some clips that OTL aired are not included in this segment, and that this segment abruptly cuts off at the end of Payne’s initial recount of events and just as clarifying questions are beginning to be asked.

 

Ashley Dowser’s passing is shared on an MSU message board, as she was a known visitor of the board:

https://247sports.com/college/michigan-state/Board/93/Contents/Rest-In-Peace-Ashley-Dowser-AKA-Ash-LizPistonsgirl-UPDATED–15384178

And the horrific replies made to her for posing a harmless question on the board shortly before she passed away:

https://247sports.com/college/michigan-state/Board/93/Contents/Can-someone-help-13599076

Izzo mentions Travis Walton by name in reference to his hometown’s proximity to that of a Michigan player’s. Note that this game was played on January 13th, nearly 2 weeks before the OTL report was released. Quote begins at the 2:30 mark and reference to Walton at around 2:50 mark.

 

The East Lansing District Court Register of Actions database, where you can search by name for police reports. Type in Walton,Travis (no spaces) to find all referenced police reports in the OTL report. The assault and battery report is case number 10-0792. The littering charge that it was plead down to is case number 10-0792X. Walton was living in Izzo’s basement by January 28 at the latest and the A&B was reported on January 16. Note that his listed address changes from a home address in the A&B and littering reports to an apartment in case number 1058401 which was entered on June 23, 2010. This implies that Walton had definitely moved out of Izzo’s basement by June, but it is still unknown exactly when he had moved in and out.

A former MSU athletic director (who hired Tom Izzo in the 90’s) talks about the culture at MSU. From the article:

“The buck stops at the top in almost every enterprise,” said Baker, 75, who now lives in Boynton Beach, Florida. “It goes back to the language throughout Title IX — that people in charge either knew, or should have known.

“I think the arrogance of the culture set in.”

Also from this article:

Felice Duffy, a New Haven, Connecticut, attorney who has practiced Title IX law for 40 years, said the university’s vulnerability could be tied primarily to appearances the school did not adequately report students’ complaints.

Any employee the student believes might have responsibility to report — even a residence assistant or a janitor — which would include a medical staff, they are required to report to the Title IX coordinator if they have any reason to know of potential sexual conduct,” said Duffy, who also is a former women’s volleyball coach at Yale. “If they don’t do that, that is a problem.

It also sounds as if there was significant information from the investigation that wasn’t provided to some survivors — and that’s a real problem. That shows cover-up. That shows a lot of things.”

Unrelated, but a crazy story about a former MSU player discussing improper benefits in a taped phone call:

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1994-11-09/sports/9411160453_1_roosevelt-wagner-call-taped

This same player supposedly plotted to kill then football coach and current Board of Trustee member George Perles:

Wagner, a former Michigan State University offensive lineman who reportedly admitted to a plot to kill Spartan Coach George Perles, has answers for everybody who’s asking.

http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19941103&slug=1939885

This incredible foreshadowing of Hollis’ chances at replacing Jim Delany as Big Ten commissioner someday:

Most view two current league athletic directors—Northwestern’s Jim Phillips and Michigan State’s Mark Hollis—as potential heirs apparent. But a half-dozen years or so certainly is a long time frame for candidates to survive.

https://www.si.com/college-football/2016/07/26/jim-delany-big-ten-conference-football

A current Board of Trustee’s past suggests he’s not a great person to have on board when standing up for sexual assault victims:

https://www.wxyz.com/news/local-news/investigations/msu-trustee-vows-support-for-sex-abuse-victims-but-opposed-them-in-court

 

If you have any additional information to share which might help clarify the situation, please include it in the comments below.

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The Turmoil at Michigan State

Disclaimer: The goal of this article is not to provide answers, but rather to ask more questions about what happened, who was involved, and how to move forward. This article will be periodically updated as new information is discovered. Additionally, the following assumptions will be made:

  • All identified victims’ stories are to be believed. The entire reason we are suddenly talking about so many events this week that occurred over a long period of time is because these stories were not initially believed. The first step towards finding a solution is acknowledging that a problem exists. If the reader feels this assumption is unfair, stop reading now.
  • The situation is fluid and non-binary. New information is arriving every day which may change the direction of this story completely. Nothing is 100% true or 100% false; memories fade, people stumble over their words, and mistakes occur. None of these scenarios void anything; we are living exclusively in the gray area. If the reader feels this assumption is unfair, stop reading now.
  • Sources with an unknown or non-existent track record are dismissed as not credible. When collecting information, always consider the source. Have they been reliable in the past? Have you heard of them before they provided the current information? If the answer to either of these questions is ‘no’ then they are not yet a credible source and their information will be dismissed. If the reader feels this assumption is unfair, stop reading now.

What Happened

On Friday January 26th, ESPN’s Outside the Lines released their findings on a 3-year-long investigative report which suggests that Michigan State University has a long history of withholding information related to sexual assaults on their campus. Additionally, Outside the Lines aired video segments of this report on Sportscenter on Friday the 26th and E:60 on Sunday the 28th, both on ESPN. These came on the heels of Larry Nassar’s sentencing, which suggests that these two stories are closely related. In many ways they are related: The nature and location of the offenses are quite similar, however the people involved do not overlap as much as it might first appear. MSU’s now former president Lou Anna Simon resigned on Wednesday, the same day as Nassar was sentenced. This was a direct result of her failure to oversee and stop his actions as early as should have been reasonably expected of someone in her position of power. Mark Hollis resigned on Friday, a few hours before the OTL report was made public. This initially suggested that he was resigning due to Nassar’s mishandling, since it was not yet publicly known what was in the OTL report. However, Hollis previously claimed that he had no knowledge of what Nassar had been doing, and even went as far as to say he was unsure if he had ever met Nassar. It seemed a little odd that he would have distanced himself so much from Nassar initially only to later resign as a result of those actions, but it was generally accepted that that was the case. Further, OTL referenced attempted communication with Hollis two days before his resignation in their report:

Hollis resigned Friday, two days after Outside the Lines asked MSU spokesman Jason Cody and the university’s sports information department for interviews with multiple MSU administrators and athletic officials, including Hollis, Izzo and Dantonio. Outside the Lines told Cody of the main findings of its reporting for this story. 

It can be reasonably inferred that Jason Cody relayed this information to Hollis prior to Friday, and therefore Hollis had knowledge when he resigned that the public did not yet have. This does not ensure he resigned because of the OTL report, but it certainly casts some doubt over whether he resigned purely because of Nassar. Only Hollis can provide a definitive answer to this, and as of this writing he has not provided that information publicly.

Who Was Involved

The report makes reference to the following individuals who were previously or are currently affiliated with Michigan State by name:

  • Mark Hollis, former athletic director
  • Mark Dantonio, current head football coach
  • Tom Izzo, current head basketball coach
  • Travis Walton, former basketball player and staff member
  • Adreian Payne, former basketball player
  • Keith Appling, former basketball player
  • Keith Mumphery, former football player

Several other former players are referenced, though not by name. From the report:

Since Dantonio’s tenure began in 2007, at least 16 MSU football players have been accused of sexual assault or violence against women, according to interviews and public records obtained by Outside the Lines.

Walton’s name would come up in another allegation involving a female MSU student. He and two basketball players — who played for him in the NCAA tournament — were named in a sexual assault report made by the woman and her parents to the athletic department, according to a university document obtained by Outside the Lines.

It is assumed that Mumphery is included in the “at least 16 MSU football players” count, and that Payne and Appling are not the same “two basketball players” which went unnamed. This brings the total to 5 basketball players (Walton, Appling, Payne, 2 unnamed) and at least 16 football players (Mumphery and at least 15 unnamed).

Neither Dantonio or Izzo committed any of the alleged assaults; their names are included because players on their teams were alleged to commit these assaults and it is unclear whether their players’ actions faced appropriate consequences.

Why it Matters

Aside from the obvious answer that it is important to seek justice for victims of these assaults, this particular report has become a lightning rod of conversation because of the coach’s names referenced in the report. The report implies that the coaches should have known what was happening with their players and did not take appropriate action to discipline their players and/or notify the appropriate authorities in all instances. The presumed fallout of admission of guilt would at the very least include a resignation of their roles as coaches, which is the biggest point of contention in all of this. The biggest question remaining is: Should the coaches be held as accountable for overseeing these incidents as former president Simon and former athletic director Hollis? In other words, should the coaches resign?

How should this be handled?

It depends who you ask. There is no consensus, only anecdotal observation of opinions. Based on my observations, there are 3 different opinions, and it is impossible to quantify which groups have the most and least support so I will not attempt a guess. The opinions are:

  • Group1: Both coaches should not be implicated (retain their positions)
  • Group2: Both coaches should be implicated (resign their positions)
  • Group3: We do not yet have enough information to make a valid decision

Dantonio and Izzo have each publicly stated that they have no intentions of resigning/retiring at this time, which puts each of them in Group1. The OTL investigative reporter’s and the interviewed former sexual assault counselor Lauren Allswede’s opinions appear to place them in Group2. The general public is disbursed throughout all 3 groups in an unknown distribution.

Since the assumption that the situation is fluid and non-binary has been made, I will go straight to the third opinion and seek to provide as much information as I can find. Please consider who the source is of each item before drawing any conclusions on the information provided. I have used my best judgment to not include any sources deemed to be not credible, but my judgment, like everyone’s, is not without flaws & biases.

The most important piece of information discovered so far is that Travis Walton lived in Tom Izzo’s basement the year after his eligibility as a player expired, while he was on Izzo’s staff. This from an article written last week:

http://www.limaohio.com/sports/281851/tom-izzos-coaching-dna-runs-deep-in-travis-walton

Note that this article was posted on January 23, 2018; 3 days before the OTL report was released. The byline of this article is as follows:

Bob Seggerson is a retired boys basketball coach and guidance counselor at Lima Central Catholic. Reach him at bseggerson@lcchs.edu

Excerpt:

Walton took a shot at playing at the next level, joining the Detroit Piston’s summer league team, but was not offered a contract. Faced with a decision about what to do next, it was Coach Izzo who stepped in and made Travis an offer he couldn’t refuse. “I was nine hours short of graduation,” Walton says. “Coach Izzo encouraged me to return to MSU, work with him as a student assistant coach, and earn my degree.”

Walton moved into Izzo’s basement and spent the year completing his degree, learning the art of coaching and staying in shape by working out with the team. It was an easy transition for Travis. “I was always a big film guy, so spending hours watching tape came easy for me,” Walton says. “I began to see the game through a coach’s eyes,” he added. “The same mistakes I made that drove coach Izzo nuts when I was playing for him, were driving me nuts now.”

After earning his degree, Walton spent three years chasing his dream of playing professional basketball, joining clubs in Switzerland and Germany and playing for three different teams in the NBA D league. But when coach Izzo connected him with an opportunity to join the coaching staff for the Utah Stampede in the NBA’s D league, Walton jumped at the opportunity.

Two articles from 2010 referencing Walton’s living arrangements at the time (the 2nd link is inactive so I had to pull it from an archived site):

http://blog.mlive.com/its-just-sports/2010/02/ager.html

https://web.archive.org/web/20100130222410/http://noise.typepad.com/hey_joe/2010/01/good-night-johnboy.html

 

For context of Izzo’s response below, excerpt from the OTL report:

The letter Allswede wrote says Walton was fired. In an interview with Outside the Lines, Allswede says little action was taken in regard to the players, and the report stayed within the athletic department, not to be investigated by anyone who handled student conduct or judicial affairs issues.

It is also worth noting that Izzo didn’t acknowledge Walton’s living arrangements in his response to questions about Walton.

Article on Dantonio/Izzo/Hollis relationship

Excerpts from this article:

Hollis was still a year away from being promoted to athletic director when his boss assigned him the task of finding Michigan State’s next football coach during the fall of 2006. 

Despite the fact that Hollis was not yet the athletic director, he was the one who hired Mark Dantonio.

From bowl destinations to NCAA Tournament sites to the occasional getaways to Mackinac Island they plan together, the three families spend a lot of time outside of East Lansing with one another. Their kids didn’t have much choice in becoming friends.

The oldest, Kristen Dantonio and T.R. Hollis, graduated from Michigan State a year ago. Katy Hollis and Raquel Izzo, both juniors, are roommates. They share a place a couple miles from where their dads lived together 30 years earlier. Lauren Dantonio, also a junior, is a frequent guest.

The relationships between Dantonio, Izzo, and Hollis extend significantly beyond their professional relationship. Their families are all very close. This should be considered for context as this story moves forward. Specifically, it demonstrates just how close Hollis is to both coaches. It is fair to assume that anything Hollis knows that is pertinent to either coaches is information that has been shared between them, and vice-versa. This is in contrast to Hollis’ description of his relationship with Nassar, whom he barely knew. The hypothesis drawn here is that Hollis resigned because of what he knew about Izzo/Dantonio, not because of what he knew about Nassar.