“The thought that I was going to hide something like what happened makes me sick,” Izzo said Thursday at the Big Ten basketball media day.
After ESPN’s Outside the Lines published a report in late January detailing a culture of sexual assault within the Michigan State athletic department, head basketball coach Tom Izzo finally addressed his involvement in incidents related to his team.
The 63-year-old Spartans legend defended his handling of a series of physical and sexual assault allegations reported by OTL. While the report cited instances of sexual assault within both the football and basketball programs, Izzo came under fire for his handling of a specific incident involving former undergraduate student-assistant coach Travis Walton, who was allowed to continue coaching after a misdemeanor physical assault allegation arose that Walton punched a female Michigan State student in the face at a bar in 2010. A few months later, Walton was accused of sexually assaulting a different female student.
“The thought that I was going to hide something like what happened makes me sick,” Izzo said Thursday at the Big Ten media day near Chicago,per Michigan Live. “The thought of that makes me sick. It’s never been, it never was. That was the big complaint on me and (Mark) Dantonio and (Mark) Hollis. It was never hidden and it never will be hidden.”
He added: “The procedures and policies were followed to the Nth degree.”
OTL’s report also detailed Izzo’s handling of another sexual assault allegation that came to light after a federal lawsuit was filed in April that claims three then-Michigan State basketball players raped a woman in 2015. Izzo said he had no knowledge of the incident at the time as it was not reported to the police. The lawsuit is ongoing.
Izzo said that he was not made aware of the physical assault accusations made against Walton during the 2009–10 season. Going forward, Izzo added that any serious allegation made will result in an immediate suspension. He also defended his reputation, saying that allegations of his mishandling of serious accusations do not align with his record as a coach.
“I’ve kicked kids off for drugs, I’ve kicked kids off for bad academics,” Izzo said. “I’m not going to kick somebody off for sexual assault? That’s insulting. That’s insulting to me.”
The report was released after Michigan State’s entire athletic department came under scrutiny following the Larry Nassar scandal. The NCAA cleared Michigan State of any infractions in the Nassar scandal while also clearing the basketball and football programs of any potential violations related to how sexual assault allegations against their players were handled.
Izzo has coached the Spartans since 1995, leading Michigan State to one national championship, eight Big Ten regular season championships and seven Final Four appearances. He was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016.