EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — With his program embroiled in a sexual assault investigation, Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio decided more conventional questions about spring practice would have to wait.
There are far more serious issues facing the Spartans this offseason.
“I think to stand up here and talk about who’s going to be our quarterback right now is trivial compared to what we’re dealing with. That’s why I’ve not wanted to do that,” Dantonio said. “Didn’t want to come up and talk about spring practice or talk about depth charts or those type of things because I thought it was unfair to the investigation as a whole. So we refrained from doing that.”
Allegations of sexual assault have been made against three Michigan State football players. The school announced Feb. 9 that the players had been suspended from team activities. On Tuesday, Dantonio held a news conference for the first time since that announcement.
The names of the players have not been released, and prosecutors have not announced any decision on charges. Reporters have not had access to spring practice at Michigan State, but the spring game Saturday is still taking place as scheduled.
“Obviously, I anticipated that this would be sort of finalized to some extent, just in terms of the investigative process, but that’s not been the case,” Dantonio said. “Because we had a spring football game on Saturday, because it’s a community event, because we have a huge youth clinic that last year drew 1800 young people, wanted to come before everybody today and just sort of step out into the light a little bit.”
Dantonio did not discuss specifics about the allegations or the investigation. A staff member associated with the football program also was suspended, and a Title IX consultant was retained to conduct a separate investigation into whether the school’s Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct policy was violated.
“The allegations are something we’re extremely concerned about here. I think we’ve acknowledged that fact as we’ve gone through this,” Dantonio said. “Probably the primary reason I’ve not met with the press prior to this is because of that fact. We wanted to respect the process in all, and everything that goes along with that.”
Dantonio said it wouldn’t have been right for the Spartans to go through a normal spring football routine — with media availabilities for players, for example — while the investigation was ongoing.
“I hope everybody understands that it’s not business as usual,” he said. “We’ve got to teach people how to play defense and tackle and things — we’ve got to do our day-to-day things — but to come out here and have our players be interviewed and act like there’s nothing going on, I just think it’s inappropriate, and that’s why I haven’t done it.”
The first question Dantonio took was about whether anyone on the team might currently be suspended, beyond the three players involved in the sexual assault investigation.
“There are some players that are suspended,” he said. “I’ll just leave it at that.”
Later, Dantonio indicated that players on the field Saturday would be identifiable. The spring game is being televised by the Big Ten Network.
“I’m going to allow our players to play with their respective numbers on their backs,” Dantonio said. “But I think the question that was asked before or mentioned, or the statement that was mentioned before about, some have been suspended for other reasons, is very true. So I would be careful to paint a brush over our entire program.”
Dantonio was asked why he wouldn’t identify players who might be suspended for reasons unrelated to the sexual assault investigation.
“I don’t think that would be fair to do that right now, just based on the situation,” he said. “I think that in doing that, I’m pointing a compass toward other individuals. I’m not going there with that.”
Dantonio was then asked about the possibility that players who miss the spring game might come under suspicion — and whether that was fair to players who might miss it for reasons that have nothing to do with the sexual assault allegations.
“You’ll be the person lumping them in,” Dantonio said. “So if you write about it, no, I don’t think it’s fair.”
MSU’s Martinez has decided to transfer
Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio says cornerback Drake Martinez has decided to transfer.
Martinez spent a redshirt year at Nebraska in 2013, played at a junior college the following year and played in two games in 2015 for Michigan State. He played in four games last season for the Spartans.