tom izzo

tom izzo

This is only my opinion and not the representation of Saintel Daily, LLC.

During a conversation during the Big Ten media day in Chicago, Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo said that he has handled all accusations about misbehavior in his basketball program properly.  His only regret about the way that everything played out was not being able to talk about the issues in more detail.  During his conversation, Izzo spoke out about what he has learned in the aftermath of the reports that the university mishandled allegations of sexual assault and violence against women made against student-athletes- including members of the Spartans’ basketball program.  Izzo has indicated that he believes some of these incidents would have been handled differently if they happened today, because of everything that’s going on in society.  But do we really believe that?

I think that we’d like to believe that.  But would a university sports program (any) want to downplay or even cover-up allegations of sexual assault? I’m not saying that this is good, but the university is going to want to protect their players because it has a huge impact on their ability to play in the NCAA, which generates revenue for the school.  Even with everything going on in the #TimesUp and #MeToo movements, I don’t necessarily think that this is the case. Let’s assume that there are five players involved in some kind of scandal.  Now you’re looking at the possibility that a large portion of your team (if its basketball) might be suspended.  What does that look like for the team?  Depending on how good they are, it might mean not advancing in the season.

On the other hand, if the school is found to be part of the cover-up, then they’re putting themselves in a situation where they might not be able to participate in the actual game.  So it is a bit of a double-edged sword.  What I like to think that Izzo is saying is not that it would be handled in a better way, but maybe the sexual assaults wouldn’t happen in the first place.  I mean, that’s the message here, isn’t it? Why not teach students that consent is the only way.  Rather than talking about how it should or will be handled.

Izzo might be part of the problem here as well.  In January, ESPN reported that former Michigan State player Travis Walton was allowed to remain as part of the program under Izzo while facing a criminal charge for allegedly punching a female student at a bar.  Walton was with the team as a student assistant coach at the time. That summer, another female student accused Walton and two basketball players of sexually assaulting her in April of that year, according to a university document.   Walton has denied that he sexually assaulted anyone. He never faced sexual assault charges related to the 2010 allegation. He also denied punching the other woman; that case was dismissed in lieu of him pleading to a civil infraction for littering.

What Izzo didn’t specify is whether he would handle Walton’s situation differently.  While I think it’s great to say that you would handle the situation differently, only time will tell if this is actually what plays out.  My hope is that no more allegations come forward, but I feel like that’s more of a pipe dream than anything at this time.