The external investigation into MSU’s handling of two separate incidents of alleged sexual assault has determined that head coach Mark Dantonio acted properly, and in accordance with the university’s procedures.
You can read the full report here.
In both instances the report says that, upon learning of the incidents, Dantonio reported what he knew to the Office of Institutional Equality (OIE), the MSU PD, and “leaders within the athletic department.” He also encouraged the reporting players, those that had brought the incidents to his attention, to cooperate with any subsequent investigations.
However, the report did conclude that one staff member was in violation of MSU’s Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct Policy and was suspended. The university later confirmed that this was former staffer Curtis Blackwell, who did not have his contract extended when it expired on May 31st.
Blackwell allegedly violated the RVSM Policy by contacting the three players allegedly involved in the January incident as well as a family member of one of the players. Blackwell also failed to report what he had learned from his conversations to the appropriate investigators.
As for Dantonio, the report states, “ our investigation uncovered no evidence that Dantonio violated the RVSM policy.”
It goes on to say that “Our investigation found no evidence that Dantonio did anything to impede, obstruct, or interfere with OIE’s investigation of the incident.”
In a final statement on MSU’s head coach it states, “Dantonio’s prompt reports to University authorities, coupled with the extensive training the football program does on the RVSM policy, demonstrated his commitment to comply with the University’s policies regarding sexual misconduct.”
What does this mean?
Basically what we have here is an independent, outside authority concluding that Mark Dantonio, and the rest of the members of his staff with the exception of Curtis Blackwell, acted the way they should. Jones Day, the law firm that conducted the investigation and compiled the report, is the largest law firm in the U.S. and ranked first in the US Law Firm Brand Index for 2017.
It was important for Michigan State to seek outside help to look into these incidents, especially in light of the Larry Nassar situation. In doing so, one should feel confident that the report is objective and neutral.
Mark Dantonio did what he was supposed to. He followed the correct procedures and guidelines and reported the incidents to the proper authorities upon learning of them. This is what he should have been expected to do. In no way should this be celebrated or seen as a win. Coach Dantonio acted the way he was expected to.
Michigan State fans, alums, students, and faculty can take some solace from the fact that Dantonio acted correctly, especially when we have seen that isn’t always the case everywhere when it comes to potential legal issues within a football program. But while he has been cleared of any wrong doing in this regard, there are still some major problems he needs to address.
The removal of Curtis Blackwell from the staff was a necessary first step, but there is still much more that needs to be done.
Along with the news of the Jones Day report came the news that the three players involved in the January incident will be sought for prosecution for said incident. That means that four MSU football players will be charged with sexual assault relating to incidents in this calendar year. In addition to that, there have been a number of other departures from the program for various reasons. Something is not right within the football program.
I understand that it may seem unfair to lay the deeds of everyone in the program at the feet of the head coach, but this is becoming an epidemic. The buck stops with Dantonio, and he knows it. Something must be done to get things back on track.
And that is where Dantonio’s focus needs to be now as he, the program, and the university move forward. Everyone needs to work together to figure out where to go from here and how to try and keep things like this from happening in the future. Michigan State fans might be pleased that their head coach acted responsibly in reporting these incidents, but I think everyone will agree that it is even more important to try and prevent more situations like this in the future.
The University is likely on edge right now in relation to all things sexual assault, and they should be. What I want to see from them is taking the lead on this issue, and working to put a stop to it. There will be plenty of time to talk about the play on the field, for now, Mark Dantonio, Mark Hollis, and company need to clean things up off the field.