Affadavit, photo from mom of recruit discredits Mark Dantonio's sworn testimony on breaking NCAA rules

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In the federal lawsuit former Michigan State staffer Curtis Blackwell filed against the university and former head coach Mark Dantonio, among others, Blackwell alleged that NCAA violations occurred under Dantonio’s watch. 

Lawyers for Dantonio, who abruptly stepped down on Feb. 4, have characterized the allegations as “false.” But new evidence introduced Tuesday in the case shows that one of the violations alleged by Blackwell did indeed take place. 

As reported by The Detroit News, a photo included in a Tuesday filing proves Blackwell was present when Dantonio and two of his assistants visited the home of Daelin Hayes when he was a high school recruit. Because Blackwell was not an on-field coach, his presence during the off-campus visit would be an NCAA violation.

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The photo was provided by Hayes’ mother, LaKeshia Neal, who also provided a sworn affidavit. Per The Detroit News, Neal said that Blackwell was in her home alongside Dantonio in December 2015. Hayes, then a five-star recruit, would go on to sign with Notre Dame. 

Dantonio was deposed in the case in January and said under oath that Blackwell would accompany him on recruiting trips, but would remain in the car while he visited with recruits. From The Detroit News:

During his deposition in January, before he stepped down as coach earlier this month, Dantonio was asked if Blackwell ever went with him to visit recruits in their homes. Dantonio responded, "No."

Dantonio also was asked if that would've been a violation of NCAA rules, and Dantonio responded, "Yes."

MSU says it is investigating the claims

From an NCAA violation perspective, any penalty for this offense would be relatively minor. But it still seems to pretty blatantly show that Dantonio lied under oath, a development that won’t help his credibility in Blackwell’s suit. 

Blackwell, MSU’s director of recruiting from 2013-17, is suing for wrongful termination. He was first suspended and later let go in the aftermath of three MSU players being accused of sexual assault. Blackwell says he was used as a scapegoat.

Michigan State's Mark Dantonio talks about his retirement from as the NCAA college football team's coach, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)
Michigan State's Mark Dantonio talks about his retirement from as the NCAA college football team's coach, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)

The other violations alleged by Blackwell in the case would be more significant for Michigan State if proven true. Blackwell’s attorneys allege that Dantonio “orchestrated employment for the parents of two MSU football players.” MSU athletic director Bill Beekman said earlier this month that the allegations were “patently false.”

Nonetheless, MSU acknowledged to The Detroit News earlier Tuesday that it is investigating the claims made by Blackwell. From the News:

"We are aware of the allegations made by Curtis Blackwell as part of his litigation," said Matt Larson, spokesman for the athletic department.

"As with any allegation concerning NCAA compliance, MSU is investigating and working with the NCAA and Big Ten. We have fully complied with our self-reporting obligations to the NCAA throughout this case."

When Dantonio stepped down, he said Blackwell’s lawsuit had “zero” impact on his decision to walk away. 

“No relevance whatsoever,” he said. 

Dantonio had a 114-57 record in 13 seasons at Michigan State, including a run to the College Football Playoff in 2015. MSU won at least 11 games six times over the eight-year span between 2010 and 2017, but struggled to 7-6 in the past two seasons. There was also a 3-9 record in 2016.

MSU subsequently hired Mel Tucker from Colorado to replace Dantonio.

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