According to an explosive new report from ESPN's Outside the Lines, the current scrutiny of Michigan State University amid the Larry Nassar scandal is not the only instance of the school allegedly failing sexual assault victims. To the contrary, the report claims that both the university's football and basketball programs have been involved in "denial, inaction, and information suppression" regarding allegations of sexual assault by athletes and coaches alike. Bustle has reached out to Michigan State University (MSU) for comment.
Jason Cody, a spokesperson for the university, reportedly declined to address specific questions about the allegations when asked by ESPN, instead issuing the following response:
Over the past several years, we have dedicated significant new resources to strengthening our efforts to combat sexual violence. Every day, people across campus are working diligently on this critical issue. We acknowledge, however, that we have sometimes fallen short of our goal and the expectations of others. It is clear more needs to be done, and we are using every resource available to get better.
The ESPN report comes less than a week after former MSU and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar was given an effective life sentence for sexually assaulting underage girls, as well as for possession of child pornography. Nearly 200 women have publicly accused Nassar of assaulting them, including four out of five members of the "Fierce Five" gymnastics team that represented the U.S. at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
The ESPN report alleges a culture of sexual assault and lack of accountability within the school's basketball and football programs, as well as efforts by the university to keep such allegations from becoming public.
In one detail, the report states that an attorney with the university met with MSU sexual assault counselor Lauren Allswede approximately seven years ago, in an effort to convince Allswede that MSU's athletic programs were taking allegations against athletes seriously. Allswede told ESPN that the attorney described how football coach Mark Dantonio dealt with a player accused of sexual assault — by reportedly making the player discuss with his mother what he'd done. "That did not reassure me at all," she told ESPN. "There's no guarantee that that had any effect, any help, whatever."
The report also notes that no less than 16 players in the MSU football program have been accused of sexual assault or physical violence against women since 2007. Just last year, however, Dantonio responded to questions regarding four of his players being accused of sexual assault by claiming it was "new ground," and that such incidents had "not happened previously."
ESPN's report also claims that a former player and undergraduate assistant coach on the MSU basketball team, Travis Walton, was accused of violently assaulting a woman in a bar during the 2010 season. Walton was also allegedly accused of rape, along with two players on the 2010 basketball team. Walton told ESPN that the former claim of a physical assault was a "false allegation," and said he did not "recall anything" regarding the rape allegation.
The rape allegation was reportedly brought to the attention of the school's athletic director, Mark Hollis, but the police were never informed. "I don't recall anything from that. Wow," Walton reportedly said. As an assistant coach in 2010, Walton worked under Hall of Fame coach Tom Izzo, just one year after helping MSU win a national championship as a player.
The university is facing an intense amount of scrutiny, and the report raises the real possibility of a deeper investigation, and possible sanctions against the school by the NCAA. The university's president, Lou Anna Simon, resigned on Wednesday over the Nassar scandal, although some felt her statement announcing the decision struck a defensive and inappropriate tone. Hollis also announced his resignation on Friday, while urging people not to "jump to any conclusions."