- Leon Halip/Getty Images
- A report from ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” revealed allegations of widespread and systemic mishandling of sexual assault allegations within the Michigan State University athletic department.
- Allegations against players involved in the school’s football and basketball programs are contained in the report, as well as further details regarding the employment of Larry Nassar.
- The report also suggested a repeated pattern of withholding documents and actively repressing allegations that involved athletes.
A report from ESPN’s Paula Lavigne for “Outside the Lines” looked into allegations that Michigan State University had a history mishandling sexual assault allegations, particularly in the athletic department, and beyond the cases involving Larry Nassar.
ESPN reported “a pattern of widespread denial, inaction and information suppression of such allegations by officials ranging from campus police to the Spartan athletic department.” ESPN also investigated how the athletic department had handled accusations involving the school’s football and men’s basketball teams.
Some of the most explosive anecdotes in the report include:
- Football coach Mark Dantonio allegedly handled a sexual assault accusation against one of the team’s football players by having the player tell his mother what he had done.
- Former MSU basketball player and assistant coach Travis Walton is said to have punched a woman at a bar, knocking her unconscious. He was allowed to stay on the coaching staff during the investigation. He later received a plea deal for a littering civil infraction.
- Later, Walton and two other basketball players were accused of sexual assault by a female MSU student. Walton was reportedly fired and the incident was “discussed” with the two basketball players without any further punishment.
- A female student, Carolyn Schaner (who chose to be named, according to the report), accused two basketball recruits of raping her in a dorm room. Charges were not filed in the case after an assistant prosecutor told Schaner “she did not seem strong enough to stand up to questioning that would come as a result of making allegations against MSU basketball players,” according to the report. The two players did not miss a game.
- The school reportedly did not file a Title IX investigation in Schaner’s case – as required by federal law – until discovered by a representative of the U.S. Department of Education.
- Campus police reportedly did not always follow their own protocol over sexual assault allegations. According to the report, one sexual assault counselor recalled an incident in which campus police “discouraged a student from filing a report, telling her that she should not ruin someone’s life.”
The report also contains several explosive accusations about the university’s handling of Nassar, the former USA gymnastics doctor who was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison by a Michigan judge earlier this week:
- In 2014, after a student alleged Nassar had molested her, the school hired four experts to evaluate the complaint, all of whom had ties to Nassar, including one physician described as a “protege” of Nassar’s. They found there was nothing sexual about his treatment of the student.
- That same year, “Outside the Lines” found, Michigan State did not inform federal officials that Nassar had dual Title IX and campus police investigations into him underway, despite the fact that federal investigators were on campus that year looking into the school’s handling of sexual assault allegations.
- While being federally investigated, Nassar reportedly returned to work for 16 months, during which time “at least” a dozen women were to have accused Nassar of assaulting them.
MSU athletic director Mark Hollis announced his resignation on Friday after MSU came under fire for its handling of sexual assault accusations against Nassar. He was already serving 60 years for child pornography charges before he was sentenced to additional time this week.
The report said the school attempted to withhold names of athletes from police records. According to the report, the school had deleted so much information from written reports that they were “nearly unreadable.” In one instance, a school-hired outside investigator claimed he did not write a report at the conclusion of his work.
The report claims that in the time since Dantonio’s tenure began in 2007, at least 16 football players have been accused of sexual assault. Additionally, there were other previously unpublicized allegations of sexual assault by players under basketball coach Tom Izzo’s program.
Former MSU sexual assault counselor Lauren Allswede told ESPN: “Whatever protocol or policy was in place, whatever frontline staff might normally be involved in response or investigation, it all got kind of swept away and it was handled more by administration [and] athletic department officials. … It was all happening behind closed doors.”
Allswede left the university in 2015 over frustrations with how sexual assault accusations were handled.
“As a Big 10 university with high-profile football, basketball and hockey programs, they want to protect the integrity of the programs – don’t want scandal, don’t want sexual assault allegations, or domestic violence allegations,” Allswede told ESPN. “None of it was transparent. It was very insulated, and people were a lot of times discouraged from seeking resources outside of the athletic department.”
When asked for comment, a spokesperson for Michigan State said the following:
We are not going to comment on the content of the ESPN story. But as our Board of Trustees said earlier today, we acknowledge that there have been failures at MSU, not only in our processes and operations, but in our culture, and will take all necessary steps to begin a new day and change the environment at the university. The Board has initiated a process to bring in an independent third-party to perform a top-to-bottom review of all our processes relating to health and safety, in every area of the University, and to provide recommendations on actions that we will implement to change the culture of MSU on this important issue.