By obfuscating and delaying all these years, Michigan State has built its tinderbox bed, as righteous indignation regarding the university’s insufficient response to sexual assault incidents rages. And once a fire is lit, it spreads quickly, claiming everything it touches. All things, regardless of size and stature, are reduced to simple carbon.
ESPN’s damning report on the heels of the Larry Nassar scandal has forced Mark Dantonio and Tom Izzo’s feet over the flame. There is great uncertainty right now in East Lansing. Both coaches could ultimately be bounced. Or one. Or neither. Dantonio, for his part, took a combative approach in questioning the accuracy of ESPN’s reporting. Izzo has been toothless, struggling to find appropriate and responsive words.
Neither are doing much to win in the court of public opinion. Certainly things are being left unsaid due to an overabundance of caution and the certainty that there will be lawyers, lawsuits, and investigations with actual power on the horizon.
The reality is that, for a large faction, there is no panacea for Izzo to offer right now that will change their minds. They believe he needs to go for mishandling allegations regarding Travis Walton, Keith Appling, and Adriean Payne. This, of course, doesn’t change the fact that the words he’s offering now aren’t satisfactory. The same group sees the plethora of incidents involving the football team and wonders how Dantonio can be seen and handling this laundry list with proper care.
Readers of this site know that I’m far from an impartial observer. My passion for my alma mater is obvious. But since the Nassar tragedy broke, it’s taken a back seat to a sense of fairness, honor, and acceptance of uncomfortable facts. With that in mind, I want to make it perfectly clear that I have no interest in predetermining an outcome where Izzo and Dantonio stay, and then reverse-engineering an argument to support that scenario.
With a simple tweet, Magic Johnson gave voice to what I believe is the overwhelming majority of Spartans this morning.
There should be no sacred cows. A thorough investigation should yield further facts and the chips should be allowed to fall where they may. If that spells the doom of Izzo and Dantonio, so be it. It is deeply depressing to see fans of my school close ranks and attack ESPN. It is depressing to see them reflexively and blindly defend. A small minority seems intent on ignoring the lessons that should have been learned from Penn State and Baylor.
Somewhere between these two pre-judged extremes lies a responsible medium willing to fairly assess a full picture of what role Izzo and Dantonio played in the larger mess. This is the place where their ultimate fates should be decided. Both appear to have reason for contrition. At the same time, there’s not much meat on the bone, so far, suggesting they played a role in covering anything up.
It’s been a bit surprising to me that Izzo’s job has been put so far in jeopardy by the national media at this early stage. That narrative feels a bit over its skis to me at the moment, but I will not argue or resist should it eventually get there based on more information. On size and scope, it’s a bit puzzling that Dantonio isn’t under a larger magnifying glass. Perhaps that’s a reaction to the disparate public comments. Dantonio was forceful, Izzo was limp and inarticulate.
It is far too early to say that there is only smoke and no fireable offenses. I believe it’s also premature to believe that these two coaches’ fates are sealed. A full investigation will paint a clearer picture, but will take time.
There is — and should be — a great distaste for Michigan State right now. But the most accurate and complete information will require patience. Izzo and Dantonio aren’t doing much to earn the public’s patience. And the university as a whole has bungled its response, fighting ESPN tooth and nail and doing everything in its power to avoid transparency.
This is the bed they’ve made and will sleep in for the foreseeable future. Answers and action are needed. We’ll see if they come in that order.