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MSU football coach breaks silence in wake of player sexual assault allegations

Cheyna Roth
MSU football coach Mark Dantonio

Michigan State University football coach Mark Dantonio is breaking his silence over controversy plaguing his team.

Dantonio held a press conference Tuesday. It was his first time speaking publicly, aside from an earlier, written, press release, since early February.

Three unidentified players were suspended in early February after a sexual assault investigation came to light. The director of college advancement and performance, Curtis Blackwell, has also been suspended, though Dantonio declined to explain why.

The MSU coach said he is speaking now because they have a public spring game this Saturday and he wanted to “step out into the light.”

“These are difficult times,” Dantonio said. “But I also think that this is an opportunity to re-center ourselves as a program, as people, and take direction from whether it’s myself or anybody else in that capacity and move forward.”

The Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office has yet to decide if it is charging the case. Because it’s an ongoing investigation, Dantonio would not comment about the investigation. But he also didn’t want to talk football.

“I think to stand up here and talk about who’s gonna be our quarterback right now is trivial compared to what we’re dealing with,” he said. “That’s why I’ve not wanted to do that.”

Dantonio said they have gone to great lengths to keep their high standards of conduct and educate their players.

My goal in coming here was always to foster a program where there was accountability, that there was integrity and that there was class in everything that we tried to do,” he said.

MSU is working on a Title IX investigation into the allegations and there is an external investigation into the football program. Dantonio said they are taking the matter seriously and, “I hope everybody understands that it is not business as usual.” 

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R