EAST LANSING — Legal issues in Michigan State’s football program are spilling over into national college basketball.
Mark Hollis, the chairman of the NCAA tournament selection committee, canceled his 12-day, 12-state trip to watch basketball games. MSU’s athletic director is remaining in East Lansing to focus on his obligations on campus, according to a CBS Sports report. Hollis’ planned 3,800-mile van trek was supposed to begin Wednesday.
One of the issues with which Hollis is dealing is Thursday’s announcement that three football players and a football staff member have been suspended indefinitely, pending criminal and Title IX investigations into an alleged sexual assault.
Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo said today that he does not know much about the football investigation but expressed confidence in Hollis, football coach Mark Dantonio and university president Lou Anna K. Simon.
“I have absolute, positive, complete faith in my president, AD and coaches that are going through things. And that’s all I can do,” Izzo said. “I have faith in them, and I support them because I have faith in them. I wouldn’t support them if I didn’t have faith in them, I’d just stay neutral. … That leadership of my president and my AD are second-to-none.
“So whatever Mark Hollis decides — if he’s canceling the trip or he doesn’t want to call me as much — I know there’s a damn good reason for it, and I know that he’ll work on it and will get it straightened out and we’ll move forward, because we have good people in place.”
None of the four people involved in the investigation has been named. Jason Cody, a spokesman for MSU, said the football staff member was suspended Thursday. Cody said the three players “were suspended as soon as allegations naming them were made to the Athletics Department leadership” but declined to discuss the specifics of the suspensions or their timing, because of the ongoing criminal and Title IX investigations.
Hollis, who did not respond to a Free Press request for comment Monday, released a statement Thursday in the news released about the football investigation.
“Sexual assault is unacceptable, and members of MSU Athletics who fail to uphold our standards for creating a culture that is safe, supportive, and responsive to those affected by it will be held accountable,” Hollis said. “My expectation of all members of the department is full and complete cooperation with all investigations.”
MSU has outsourced the Title IX investigation to Ann Arbor-based Rebecca Veidlinger, who previously had served as head of MSU’s Office for Institutional Equity and interim Deputy Title IX Coordinator. Veidlinger is in her final year of a three-year appointment to the State Bar of Michigan Domestic Violence Committee. She told the Free Press via email today that she cannot comment on the Title IX investigation or offer a timeline for its conclusion.
The Michigan State University Police Department is handling the criminal investigation, which is supposed to conclude early this week.
Karen Truszkowski, the attorney for the alleged victim, said she and her client are awaiting the completion of the investigations. The Free Press does not name alleged victims of sexual assaults.
“All I can say, at this point, is they are still in the investigation phase,” Truszkowski said. “We are in contact with the Michigan State University Police, and I am confident they are doing a thorough investigation. We are also in contact with the Title IX investigator, who is an independent investigator. I am comfortable that both of them are doing a thorough and objective job.”
Izzo would not comment on the football investigation.
“I believe in the people,” Izzo said. “I believe in the people that we have. I believe in what we do on a daily basis.”
Hollis was at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis last week, for tournament selection duties, then went to New York, where he helped present the release of the projected top 16 teams in the field Saturday on CBS. Izzo said he hasn’t talked to him since he returned and has not spoken with Hollis about the football allegations.
“They aren’t necessarily new problems, and that doesn’t mean that anybody should condone anything that is a problem,” Izzo said. “But problems are things that you deal with and resolve the best you can. The last I looked, nobody here can — there’s no god here. We have to try and educate and do the best job we can and, raising my own kids, raising the kids we have in my program, raising the students we have at Michigan State, the students we have all over the country.
“Sometimes I’ve made it pretty clear that I don’t think we’re doing a great job, as a society, at doing that. I know this: I know we’re working at it here every day.”
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