ROSEMONT, Ill. – Michigan State coach Tom Izzo insisted Thursday he was never part of an effort to cover up allegations of sexual misconduct within the school’s athletic department.
The Hall of Famer said the idea that he would be involved sickens him.
Izzo said the low point in his life was an ESPN report last winter saying Michigan State had a history of covering up incidents of sexual assault in the football and men’s basketball programs. It stated that former Spartans basketball player Travis Walton was named in a sexual assault report and had assault and battery charges dismissed in 2010. At the time, Walton was a graduate assistant.
Izzo said he felt the report lumped him and football coach Mark Dantonio in with Larry Nassar, the former Michigan State and Team USA sports doctor imprisoned for child pornography crimes and molesting female athletes.
“That’ll go down for the rest of my life as the lowest part of my life, being on there with a pedophile like I was on there with,” Izzo said.
As for a potential cover-up? Izzo was adamant: There was none.
“The thought of that makes me sick,” he said. “It’s never been hidden. It never was. That was the big complaint on me and Dantonio and (retired athletic director Mark Hollis). And it never was hidden and it never will be hidden.”
The NCAA cleared Michigan State of any rules infractions in the Nassar scandal. The basketball and football programs were also cleared of any potential violations related to how sexual assault allegations against their players were handled.
Izzo acknowledged he might have handled things a little differently in hindsight during a lengthy session with reporters at the Big Ten’s annual basketball media day. But he also insisted policies were followed to the “Nth degree.”
“I want to make this the greatest place,” Izzo said. “I want to make this better. ... I’m hoping the day comes when a lot of the survivors that were Michigan State girls come back. That’s what I’d like to see. ... It’s never gonna be OK with me, what happened.”
Izzo drew sharp criticism in January when he defended then-school President Lou Anna Simon — who resigned shortly afterward — and the university on the same day Nassar’s victims addressed their assailant in court. While praising the “courageous women,” he said it had been “a very difficult week for me.”
That drew a sharp rebuke on Twitter from the mother of Olympic gold medal gymnast Aly Raisman. Lynn Raisman wondered if Izzo was a “moron” or “liar.”
“There’s nobody arguing that it was horrific what happened,” said Izzo, who has a daughter and son. “There’s nobody that stuck up for them more. Every other team in the country didn’t do anything. I did something every night. My team, my players, I talked about it until people told me to knock it off. I talked to their parents. I talked to some of them myself.”