To say that the Michigan State football program, coming off a three-win season on the field that was its worst in more than 20 years, is having a rough offseason off of it wouldn’t do it justice.
Earlier this month, Thiyo Lukusa, the projected starter at right tackle, announced that he was leaving not only the football team but the sport, citing a loss of love and passion for the game. Not long after, Jon Reschke, a likely starter at linebacker, announced his decision to transfer from the Spartans after making “an insensitive and totally regrettable comment involving a former teammate.”
Most notably — and disturbingly — three unidentified football players as well as a football staffer were suspended amidst sexual assault allegations, with tandem police and Title IX investigations casting a cloud over the program.
Noticeably absent amidst that maelstrom? Head coach Mark Dantonio, who has not permitted reporters to cover spring practice sessions that kicked off this past weekend and didn’t conduct a press conference previewing the spring agenda as had been the case every other year he’d been on the job since taking control in late November of 2006. In fact, the coach hadn’t spoken publicly since National Signing Day the first part of the month.
Tuesday, that changed somewhat as Dantonio released a statement through the university which, in part, states that his program is “extremely concerned about” the allegations and they are “taking [them] very seriously.” “When the time is appropriate, I will be able to answer questions regarding our program and discuss our team,” the coach said, adding, “At this point in time, we have to respect the process of the investigations for everyone involved.”
Below is the text of Dantonio’s statement, in its entirety.
With spring practice beginning last weekend and preparation for a new season underway, I feel it’s important to reinforce the core values and beliefs that have built and defined this program during my time at MSU.
“Since arriving here 11 years ago, my passion has been to lead a program that fosters a culture of integrity, respect and accountability, both on and off the field. That will never change. I have high standards for the program and expect all of our players and staff to conduct themselves in a manner that reflects the values and principles of Michigan State University. Our goal is to develop young men of character who graduate and make a positive impact on society.
“Regarding the ongoing investigations taking place within our program, the allegations are something we’re extremely concerned about and taking very seriously. We took immediate action by suspending those involved as soon as we were notified of the situation. Our action is separate from the ongoing criminal and administrative investigations. Those processes will determine if a crime has been committed and also if any university policy has been violated.
“(Athletic director) Mark Hollis and the university administration have set forth expectations for this program that I fully support, and we have gone to great lengths to consistently educate all members of the football program on our standards of conduct. I expect all members of the football program to live up to those standards, and I’m doing everything necessary to help throughout this difficult process.
“When the time is appropriate, I will be able to answer questions regarding our program and discuss our team. At this point in time, we have to respect the process of the investigations for everyone involved.