Izzo says he never tried to cover up sex as­sault al­le­ga­tions

The Reporter (Lansdale, PA) - - SPORTS - By An­drew Selig­man

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 coverup? 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.”

NAM Y. HUH — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Michi­gan State head coach Tom Izzo lis­tens to a ques­tion at a press con­fer­ence dur­ing Big Ten NCAA col­lege bas­ket­ball me­dia day Thurs­day in Rose­mont, Ill.

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