While today contained a little bit of good news that was a long time coming for those affiliated with Michigan State University, it should not be portrayed — or celebrated — as some kind of victory or vindication.
To the Michigan State administration’s credit, they handled this news appropriately — acknowledging their gratefulness that the NCAA noted their “cooperation” and “responsiveness” in the inquiries yet keeping the focus on their commitment to ensuring “the health, safety and wellness” of MSU’s student athletes. Their release struck the right tone and that is a credit to Bill Beekman and his staff.
You can read our earlier coverage here but to recap: yesterday, the NCAA sent MSU a letter informing them that their investigation is over ... for now. Jonathan F. Duncan, NCAA Vice President of Enforcement, stated unequivocally in his letter that — based on the information available at this time — Michigan State’s athletic department did not commit any NCAA violations in regards to the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal or in regards to the accusations brought forward in ESPN’s OTL report in January 2018.
To be clear, those affiliated with MSU should not be celebrating this or claiming victory of any kind.
There are no victories in situations like this.
There are nameless victims and there are survivors and there are systems that need changing.
There are still multiple investigations going on, both at a state (AG) and a federal (Dept of Education) level.
There are teal ribbons and there are protests and there are Spartan students with duct tape over their mouths at Board of Trustees meetings because they feel ignored.
There is an interim president in Cowles House and there is a search committee with Joel Ferguson on it.
Acknowledging that MSU did not “win” anything today, it is fair, however, to say that a bit of a cloud has lifted off one aspect of this sordid affair. Today brought a small dose of good news for fans who identify with Michigan State University. For fans who don't want to believe that the coaches they have grown to love — Mark Dantonio and Tom Izzo — were part of a scheme to silence victims of sexual abuse.
Dantonio has been adamant from the very beginning that every single incident reported in the ESPN OTL report was either reported by him to the proper authorities or brought to him by the proper authorities. Izzo stumbled and bumbled over his words for a few months before essentially saying the same thing to a scrum of reporters.
In fact, Dantonio doubled down today after the NCAA news broke:
So, yes, both coaches have denied ESPN’s allegations and, now, the NCAA has agreed with them.
That is important.
But, as Ralph Russo’s article from last week points out, the primary purpose of the NCAA is to ensure fair competition and regulate recruiting and amateurism rules. Issues that are outside of sports are mostly outside the scope of the NCAA. In fact, schools don’t want the NCAA to investigate sexual assault or criminal actions or the like.
It is important that MSU was cleared by the NCAA. That clearance throws a little water on the fire that ESPN set back in January with their OTL report that was long on insinuation but short on important context. I have been very clear for six months now that ESPN’s report was indeed factual — but it left out integral details that should have been included if ESPN wanted it to be fair. But — and this is important — that clearance was for a very limited aspect of this overall situation.
The NCAA is but one organization looking into Michigan State at this time; indeed, it is also the weakest of the organizations investigating. Yes, it is good that Michigan State was found to have not committed any compliance violations with regard to Nassar or the ESPN allegations. But that is only part of the story.
Another part of the story will come when the feds finish their investigation of how MSU handled Title IX reports.
The rest of the story is coming out piece by piece as the Attorney General of the State of Michigan continues his investigation into what exactly happened at Michigan State. The AG’s office has been very coy about exactly what they are investigating at MSU — but it appears they started with the Larry Nassar scandal and followed wherever the trail led them.
So far, the AG’s investigation has not turned up any evidence of criminal wrongdoing in the men’s basketball or football program. Outside of direct evidence, Dantonio and Izzo should receive the assumption of their claims — that they've followed the rules and procedures in place.
The AG's office has, however, charged two former employees with pretty serious crimes, William Strampel and Kathie Klages. Both of those individuals are charged in regards to their actions that either helped Nassar feel comfortable while committing sexual assault on three dozen MSU student-athletes (and hundreds more non-student athletes) or lying/impeding the investigation of the same.
It is not known yet if the AG’s office will charge anyone else at MSU with any other crimes (the AG’s office hopes to have the investigation wrapped up by year’s end). But what is known is that the AG is looking into every crack and crevice in East Lansing, having already interviewed over 500 people connected with the university.
The NCAA cleared MSU in the area that it has jurisdiction to do so. The AG’s office and the Department of Education are still looking. These investigatory bodies will treat the Nassar case -- and the separate Title IX allegations put forth by ESPN -- fairly, and their reports will give Spartan Nation another glimpse into how the university handled these important issues.