Rachael Denhollander, the first to file criminal charges against Larry Nasser, speaks out about her sexual abuse from the ex-USA Gymnastics doctor.
USA TODAY Sports
The Michigan State athletic department suppressed information related to sexual assault allegations against the football and basketball teams, and along with campus police and university officials, fostered a culture of denial and inaction that stretched far beyond the failures of confronting former MSU athletic doctor Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse, according to an ESPN Outside the Lines report published Friday — not long after longtime athletics director Mark Hollis announced his retirement.
Sixteen players have been accused of sexual assault or violence against women under football coach Mark Dantonio’s watch since 2007, according to interviews and public records obtained by ESPN, despite the football coach addressing four football players in June as the first offenders he dealt with any such issues on. Four Spartans football players — Josh King, Donnie Corley and Demetric Vance in a January 2017 incident, and Auston Robertson in an April 2017 incident — were dismissed last year and face criminal sexual conduct charges.
Basketball coach Tom Izzo had several incidents occur under his watch as well, including one that involved a former undergraduate student-assistant coach, Travis Walton, who was allowed to coach after he had been criminally charged with punching a female MSU student in the face at a bar in 2010. After the Final Four that year, Walton was accused of sexually assaulting a different MSU student. Walton, the 2009 Big Ten defensive player of the year, helped the Spartans reach the 2009 national championship game.
MORE: Athletic director Mark Hollis steps down in wake of Larry Nassar scandal
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In ESPN’s report, former Michigan State sexual assault counselor Lauren Allswede was interviewed. The former Michigan State staffer of seven years left the university in 2015 because of how the athletic program covered up sexual assault cases. Allswede said sexual assault cases were handled or investigated by the athletic department, including Hollis and coaches of players accused.
Allswede said: “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. … None of it was transparent or included people who would normally be involved in certain decisions.”
“A lot of the statements that are coming out now … from Mark Hollis or administration claiming there’s no rape culture, is misleading,” Allswede added. “When there’s multiple reports against specific programs, that needs to be followed up on. That needs to be addressed. It’s not a coincidence.”
The report comes after president Lou Anna Simon announced her resignation Wednesday, Hollis’ resignation Friday, and in the wake of Nassar’s sentencing to 40 to 175 years in prison for sexual abuse stemming from his time as the Spartans’ doctor and USA Gymnastics’ team doctor.
The ESPN report overlapped a Detroit Free Press investigation that began in 2017, which uncovered four more allegations of sexual assault against MSU football players. The investigation accounted for 11 of the 16 players reportedly accused of sexual assault on Dantonio’s watch since 2007.
Here are the other four incidents:
Incident 1, reported Jan. 17, 2010
The first reported sexual assault allegedly occurred Nov. 20, 2009, but it was not reported until nearly two months later. The Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office said it did not receive information from MSU Police on that situation. The accused player did not return to the team in the 2010 season, and the alleged victim withdrew from MSU, according to the police report.
Incident 2, reported Oct. 29, 2013
An MSU football player allegedly sexually assaulted a women following a blowout win over Illinois. The incident occurred in early morning hours of Oct. 27. The alleged victim did not want to seek criminal prosecution but wanted it referred to MSU Judicial Affairs. It is unclear if that happened, and MSU cites FERPA in not releasing details of matters in the student conduct system. The case was “closed to uniform division investigation” on Oct. 30 that year, and that player remained on the roster throughout that season. Police eventually followed up with the woman June 20, 2014. A warrant request for the player was sent to the Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office on July 25 that year. The prosecutor’s office declined to pursue charges on Sept. 6, 2014, because of a lack of evidence to prove the allegations and third-party witnesses said it was a consensual act, according to police documents.
Incident 3 reported May 28, 2014
One incident involving four players allegedly occurred in October 2007, Dantonio’s first season, but was not reported to MSU Police until 2014, according to MSU Police and prosecutor’s office records. No charges were filed after more than a yearlong investigation against the four implicated in the report, all of whom had completed their football eligibility before the matter was brought to MSU Police.
Incident 4, reported March 18, 2015
Ex-MSU wide receiver Keith Mumphery was expelled in 2016 from his graduate studies program and banned from campus for violating the university’s relationship violence and sexual misconduct policy. He was accused of sexually assaulting a student in an MSU dorm room on March 17, 2015, after he had expired his eligibility with the Spartans.The woman reported the incident to MSU Police that night, and records show conflicting accounts of who was the aggressor and whether elements of their behavior was consensual. On March 18, Mumphery worked out in front of NFL scouts, coaches and executives at the Spartans’ pro day on MSU’s campus. The Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office declined to press charges on Aug. 24, 2015. However, a June 7, 2016, letter in Mumphery’s file with MSU Police said he was found to have violated the university’s relationship violence and sexual misconduct policy. He was informed he could no longer reenroll at MSU “in any capacity” and was been banned from campus or using university facilities until Dec. 31, 2018. If he violates that order, he can be arrested.
The four previously unreleased cases all occurred when Stuart Dunnings III was the Ingham County Prosecutor. He resigned from office in July 2016 after being arrested in March that year on 15 prostitution-related charges, receiving a one-year sentence in November that he is currently serving in Clinton County jail.
New Ingham County Prosecutor Carol Siemon issued charges for Robertson on April 21 and then charged King, Corley and Vance.
The four sexual assault allegations run counter to what Dantonio said in June when he discussed the two sexual assault cases opened against four of his players.
“We’ve been here 11 years. It’s not happened previously,” Dantonio said. “This has been a little bit of a learning experience. As you all know, when you look across the country right now, there are issues. There are issues that need to be explored, and people need to continue to be educated. You do the very best that you can do in that endeavor.”
Attempts to contact Dantonio on Friday were not immediately successful.
According to records obtained by the Free Press, basketball players Keith Appling and Adreian Payne were accused of sexually assaulting a woman during the fall of their freshman year in 2010. Dunnings declined to press charges in the matter, citing insufficient evidence.
Izzo has been MSU’s head basketball coach since 1995 and has been on the Spartans coaching staff since 1983.
Hollis in June said the athletic department rarely deals with sexual assault cases.
“To the best of my recollection,” he said, “there is just a few where there has been allegations.”
Asked then if his department has a policy to immediately suspend any athlete being investigated for sexual assault, Hollis said: “I think there’s a wide variety of issues that you could look at where a suspension would be in play.”
“Generally, when a university becomes aware of a situation that involves a legal remedy, what you want to do is allow those student-athletes have full energy to resolve that,” Hollis said. “At the same time, you want to ensure that you continue on with the medical and educational opportunities they have to be successful and healthy.”
MSU is currently under investigation by the NCAA for how it handled the Nassar allegations, and Hollis said in a statement Wednesday that MSU would “cooperate with any investigation.”
Contributing: Chris Solari of the Detroit Free Press, part of the USA TODAY Network