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Michigan State’s Tom Izzo hopeful College Gameday visit can end ESPN rift

With College Gameday visiting East Lansing for the first time since 2016, Tom Izzo is hoping everyone can put a tumultuous past with ESPN in the rearview.

EAST LANSING—Monday marked exactly one year since ESPN’s Tisha Thompson chased down Tom Izzo in the hallway to the locker room after his team’s six-point road win over Maryland. Thompson was sent by ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” to get answers from Izzo about eight-year-old allegations of sexual assault within his basketball program that Thompson’s network reported.

Fast forward a year later to Michigan State’s Big Ten battle with Indiana on Saturday and it’s another ESPN crew visiting Izzo and East Lansing. ESPN’s College Gameday is set to visit East Lansing for a Big Ten-leading fifth time and first time since 2016.

There are still Spartan fans holding a grudge against the company that published a report claiming there was a history of the school and its athletic department covering up incidents of sexual assault within its football and men’s basketball programs.

While Izzo still acknowledges how many people were hurt and injured by the reporting, he feels that Gameday returning to East Lansing can be used as an opportunity to bury the hatchet with the network.

“I think it’s part of the healing process, I really do,” Izzo said during his Tuesday media availabilty. “And I think the best way we can show that is the support we give our players, our players on the floor, our program.”

For members of the 2017-2018 team, many felt that ESPN’s persistent involvement took away from the basketball and diminished what they accomplished on the court.

“Last year it felt like it was never just basketball,” Michigan State’s leading-scorer Cassius Winston said. “This year this team is embracing all of our accolades and accomplishments and trying to make more of them.”

The players are more than willing to put the negative coverage in the past and to welcome Gameday back to East Lansing to do what the show is intended to do, which is to showcase a team and its fanbase.

“We’re really excited, it’s something we dreamed about as kids, having Gameday at our place,” senior guard Kyle Ahrens said enthusiastically. “I had it once our freshmen year against Maryland. Just the hype around everything, it’s exciting.”

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Still not pleased with ESPN’s reporting of his program, Izzo believes that College Gameday and their crew getting pulled into the same pot of criticism isn’t warranted.

“Jay Williams I’ve known for a decent amount of time. Rece has been a pretty good friend for a while,” Izzo said. “But Jay Bilas and Seth Greenberg have been friends of mine since I got into coaching. And that entity of college basketball is, you know, Michigan State University is Michigan State University. I didn’t deal with the Nassar thing, I had nothing to do with the Nassar thing. I got lumped in. I think sometimes what they deal with gets lumped in, too.”

The show, which is hosted by Rece Davis, will be live from the Breslin Center, beginning at 11 a.m. on ESPN. Doors will open at 9:30 a.m. and admission is free. Tipoff for Saturday’s game is slated for 6 p.m. on ESPN.