Time To Burn Down Michigan State
27 Jan, 2018
Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis announced his retirement Friday, the same day an explosive ESPN story detailing a number of allegations of sexual assault and violent attacks on women occurred with Spartan football and basketball players.
Hollis had been athletic director since he took over for Ron Mason on Jan. 1, 2008. He began his athletics career as a student manager for Jud Heathcote and is a 1985 MSU alum.
Hollis’ resignation also comes days after Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics doctor who also was employed by Michigan State, was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison for sexually abusing more than 150 girls and young women, including some MSU athletes.
“Michigan State University is a great institution and its greatest strengths are the people that call themselves Spartans. Many if not all of those Spartans are hurting, especially the courageous survivors of Larry Nassar’s abuse,” Hollis said Friday. “My heart breaks, my heart breaks thinking about the incomprehensible pain all of them and their families have experienced. Along with many I was brought to tears as I listen to statements. There simply aren’t the right words to express our sympathy.
“Our campus and beyond has been attacked by evil, an individual who broke trust and so much more. As a campus community, we must do everything we can to ensure that this never happens again and make sure that any sexual assault never occurs.”
ESPN released an in-depth investigative story about two hours after Hollis’ announcement, and scrutinized the way both football coach Mark Dantonio and basketball coach Tom Izzo handled allegations of sexual assault against their players.
ESPN’s report details incidents involving MSU’s football program involving 16 players since Dantonio took over in 2007. Four Spartan football players – Josh King, Donnie Corley and Demetric Vance in a January 2017 incident, and Auston Robertson in an April 2017 incident – were dismissed last year and are facing criminal sexual conduct charges.
The ESPN report overlapped a Free Press investigation that began in 2017, which uncovered four more allegations of sexual assault against MSU football players, bringing the total to six cases under Dantonio. Each of the four incidents were investigated by authorities, but no charges were filed. The Free Press investigation found 11 players were accused in the six cases on Dantonio’s watch since 2007.
Here are the six incidents:
Incident 1, reported Jan. 17, 2010
The first reported sexual assault allegedly occurred Nov. 20, 2009, but it was not reported until nearly two months later. The Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office said it did not receive information from MSU Police on that situation. The accused player did not return to the team in the 2010 season, and the alleged victim withdrew from MSU, according to the police report.
Incident 2, reported Oct. 29, 2013
An MSU football player allegedly sexually assaulted a women following a blowout win over Illinois. THe incident occurred in early morning hours of Oct. 27. The alleged victim did not want to seek criminal prosecution but wanted it referred to MSU Judicial Affairs. It is unclear if that happened, and MSU cites FERPA in not releasing details of matters in the student conduct system. The case was “closed to uniform division investigation” on Oct. 30 that year, and that player remained on the roster throughout that season. Police eventually followed up with the woman June 20, 2014. A warrant request for the player was sent to the Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office on July 25 that year. The prosecutor’s office declined to pursue charges on Sept. 6, 2014, because of a lack of evidence to prove the allegations and third-party witnesses said it was a consensual act, according to police documents.
Incident 3 reported May 28, 2014
One incident involving four players allegedly occurred in October 2007, Dantonio’s first season, but was not reported to MSU Police until 2014, according to MSU Police and prosecutor’s office records. No charges were filed after more than a yearlong investigation against the four implicated in the report, all of whom had completed their football eligibility before the matter was brought to MSU Police.
Incident 4, reported March 18, 2015
Ex-MSU wide receiver Keith Mumphery was expelled in 2016 from his graduate studies program and banned from campus for violating the university’s relationship violence and sexual misconduct policy. He was accused of sexually assaulting a student in an MSU dorm room on March 17, 2015, after he had expired his eligibility with the Spartans.The woman reported the incident to MSU Police that night, and records show conflicting accounts of who was the aggressor and whether elements of their behavior was consensual. On March 18, Mumphery worked out in front of NFL scouts, coaches and executives at the Spartans’ pro day on MSU’s campus. The Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office declined to press charges on Aug. 24, 2015. However, a June 7, 2016, letter in Mumphery’s file with MSU Police said he was found to have violated the university’s relationship violence and sexual misconduct policy. He was informed he could no longer reenroll at MSU “in any capacity” and was been banned from campus or using university facilities until Dec. 31, 2018. If he violates that order, he can be arrested.
Incident 5, reported Jan. 17, 2017
Three players – King, Corley and Vance – were charged in 54B District Court. They allegedly sexually assaulted a woman in the early morning of Jan. 16 this year in the bathroom of an on-campus apartment. The university announced their suspensions Feb. 9, along with the suspension of football staff member Curtis Blackwell. An external law firm determined Dantonio handled the case properly, but it also found Blackwell did not follow university guidelines for dealing with relationship violence and sexual misconduct. Blackwell was the football program’s director of college advancement and performance until his contract expired May 31.
Incident 6, reported April 8 to Meridian Township Police
Robertson was charged with third degree criminal sexual conduct for allegedly raping a female MSU student on April 8 in her apartment in Meridian Township, adjacent to East Lansing. He faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
The first four cases occurred when Stuart Dunnings III was the Ingham County Prosecutor. He resigned from office in July 2016 after being arrested in March that year on 15 prostitution-related charges, receiving a one-year sentence in November that he is currently serving in Clinton County jail.
Ingham County Prosecutor Carol Siemon issued charges for Robertson on April 21 and then charged King, Corley and Vance.
The four sexual assault allegations run countercurrent to what Dantonio said in June when he discussed the two sexual assault cases opened against four of his players.
“We’ve been here 11 years. It’s not happened previously,” Dantonio said. “This has been a little bit of a learning experience. As you all know, when you look across the country right now, there are issues. There are issues that need to be explored, and people need to continue to be educated. You do the very best that you can do in that endeavor.”
Attempts to contact Dantonio on Friday were not immediately successful.
Hollis in June said the athletic department rarely deals with sexual assault cases.
“To the best of my recollection,” he said, “there is just a few where there has been allegations.”
Asked then if his department has a policy to immediately suspend any athlete being investigated for sexual assault, Hollis said: “I think there’s a wide variety of issues that you could look at where a suspension would be in play.”
“Generally, when a university becomes aware of a situation that involves a legal remedy, what you want to do is allow those student-athletes have full energy to resolve that,” Hollis said. “At the same time, you want to ensure that you continue on with the medical and educational opportunities they have to be successful and healthy.”
ESPN also detailed two incidents that allegedly involved former MSU point guard Travis Walton that were made during his time as a student assistant coach for Izzo during the 2009-10 season, in which the Spartans went to the Final Four. Walton reportedly punched a women in the face at a bar in one incident.
Walton, along with two members of the basketball team, also were alleged to have sexually assaulted a different woman off campus, according to ESPN. The network said no police charges were filed in that case, but reported the woman went to Hollis with the allegations that she was raped.
According to records obtained by the Free Press, Keith Appling and Adreian Payne were accused of sexually assaulting a woman during the fall of their freshman year in 2010. Dunnings declined to press charges in the matter, citing insufficient evidence.
In 2015, the Office for Civil Rights determined MSU’s handling of some Title IX cases had created a “hostile environment” on campus for individuals who complained about relationship violence or sexual misconduct. The federal oversight agency also found that there was confusion among MSU’s athletic department staff about who should report sexual assault claims to the university’s investigation office.
In the two most recent cases, law firm Jones Day investigated and found Dantonio followed the policy and procedures for employees to report suspected sexual assaults to the university’s Office of Institutional Equity. The OIE handles Title IX investigations into cases involving relationship violence and sexual assault allegations.
Izzo has been MSU’s head basketball coach since 1995 and has been on the Spartans coaching staff since 1983, when Hollis was a student manager for Jud Heathcote.
MSU is currently under investigation by the NCAA for how it handled the Nassar allegations, and Hollis said in a statement Wednesday that MSU would “cooperate with any investigation.”
“Since my first day on the job as athletic director, my focus has always been on the student-athlete,” Hollis said Wednesday. “They are at the core of our athletic department mission statement,” Hollis said. “Our first priority has always been and will always be their health and safety. In regards to the letter we received from the NCAA last night, the athletic compliance and university general counsel offices are preparing a comprehensive response.”
More to come.
Detroit Free Press
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