Tom Izzo defends his handling of sexual assault allegations against Michigan State players

Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo had a lengthy discussion with reporters at Big Ten media day on Thursday. While he spoke about a number of topics, he spent a lot of time vehemently defending his handling of sexual assault allegations made against former players.

The allegations were originally brought to light in a January report from ESPN’s “Outside the Lines,” and accused Izzo, football coach Mark Dantonio, and former athletic director Mark Hollis of suppressing information and failing to act when players were accused of sexual assault. Izzo firmly denied that he mishandled any allegations against his former players. From the Detroit Free Press:

“The thought that I was gonna hide something like what happened makes me sick. The thought of that makes me sick. It’s never been hidden, it never was. That was the big complaint on me and Dantonio and (former athletic director Mark) Hollis. And it never was hidden, and it never will be hidden.”

He also said that “procedures and policies were followed to the n-th degree.”

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Tom Izzo through his career
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Tom Izzo through his career
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo reacts after a score in the second half of the NCAA Midwest Regional men's college basketball tournament final against Louisville Sunday, March 29, 2009, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo is congratulated by former Michigan State player Earvin "Magic" Johnson after MSU's 70-69 win over Tennessee in the NCAA Midwest Regional college basketball championship game Saturday, March 28, 2009, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo looks on during the championship game at the men's NCAA Final Four college basketball tournament, Monday, April 6, 2009, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo, left, celebrates with assistant coaches Mark, Montgomery, right, and Dwayne Stephens, center, after Michigan State beat Maryland 85-83 in an NCAA second-round college basketball game in Spokane, Wash., Sunday, March 21, 2010. (AP Photo/Rajah Bose)
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo reacts during the first half against Butler in a men's NCAA Final Four semifinal college basketball game Saturday, April 3, 2010, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo, center, is hugged by players, including Kalin Lucas, left, Austin Thornton, center rear, Korie Lucious, right front, and Garrick Sherman, right rear, during a news conference Tuesday, June 15, 2010, in East Lansing, Mich., announcing that he will stay at Michigan State instead of moving to the NBA to coach the Cleveland Cavaliers. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo reacts along with guard Denzel Valentine, rear, at the end of a 67-64 win over Kansas during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo reacts to a call during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Iowa, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013, in Iowa City, Iowa. Michigan State won 62-59. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo, center front, celebrates with his team after the regional final against Louisville in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament Sunday, March 29, 2015, in Syracuse, N.Y. Michigan State won the game 76-70. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo smiles during a practice session for the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball semifinal game Friday, April 3, 2015, in Indianapolis. Michigan State plays Duke on Saturday. (AP Photo/David J.
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, right, gets a hug from guard Denzel Valentine, who is next to forward Matt Costello, after Izzo's 500th career win, during an NCAA college basketball game, a 99-68 victory over Boston College in the quarterfinals of the Wooden Legacy tournament in Fullerton, Calif., Thursday, Nov. 26, 2015. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
Michigan State associate head coach Dwayne Stephens tries calming coach Tom Izzo during the latter's disagreement with a referee during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Oakland, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015, in Auburn Hills, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo reacts from courtside in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Michigan at Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Tony Ding)
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo claps during practice at the NCAA college basketball in Detroit, Thursday, March 15, 2018. Michigan State plays Bucknell in the first round on Friday. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo listens to a question at a press conference during Big Ten NCAA college basketball media day Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, in Rosemont, Ill. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
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Izzo was specifically accused of mishandling two accusations against former player and student assistant coach Travis Walton. In 2010, Walton was accused of punching out a female Michigan State student at a bar, and was allowed to remain with the team. Several months later, Walton and two other players were accused of sexually assaulting a woman. When Izzo was asked whether he would handle Walton’s situation differently now, he maintained that he didn’t know about the bar incident. From ESPN:

“Would things be handled differently? I’m a little bit bothered to say yes. Every kid would be suspended for everything that happened. Some of those kids were suspended. It’s hard to suspend somebody on something you didn’t even know about. I can’t do that.”

Izzo was “insulted” by the suggestion that he wouldn’t kick a player off his team for sexual assault, saying that he’d removed players from his team for bad grades and drug use. But he also said that he couldn’t be the person deciding a player’s guilt or innocence. 

“As far as accusations of what players did or not, if there would have been a time where a player was found guilty of something, I promise you he will not be on this team. He will not be on this team. But if you want me to be, what is the word, a vigilante, to go out and do justice, I can’t do that.”

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Liz Roscher is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at lizroscher@yahoo.com or follow her on Twitter at @lizroscher.

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