For the first time since Michigan State announced in early February that it had suspended three football players amid a sexual assault investigation, Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio addressed the media Tuesday.
MSU will play its annual spring game on Saturday, but Dantonio, who previously had only issued a statement Feb. 28 saying he was “extremely concerned” about the situation, made it clear early on that he wouldn’t be talking about football. With something as serious as a sexual assault investigation looming over the program, Dantonio said it would be “trivial” to discuss on-the-field matters like the team’s quarterback battle. But at the same time, he was not willing to divulge any specifics about the investigation, or to name any of the players involved.
“I cannot comment on an investigation,” said Dantonio, who reiterated the “serious” nature of the situation multiple times. “That’s not my place. I’m a football coach here. I’m a head of the program. What I can comment on, I will comment on. What I won’t do right now is talk about football because I don’t think that’s important enough, quite honestly, to talk about at this point in time in our program.
“I hope everybody understands how serious we are taking this relative to our football program. I hope everybody understands this is not business as usual. To come out here and have our players be interviewed and act like there’s nothing going on, I just think that’s inappropriate and that’s why I haven’t done it.”
Dantonio did, however, say that there were other members of the team who are currently suspended. Those suspensions do not relate to the sexual assault investigation, Dantonio said, but he would not identify any of the other suspended players.
Michigan State has not released a depth chart or an updated roster this spring. And despite the inevitability of fans and reporters scrutinizing who is and is not on the field Saturday in an effort to identify any suspended players, Dantonio said his players will take the field with their numbers on their backs.
“I’m going to allow our players to play with their respective numbers on their backs,” Dantonio said. “Some have been suspended for other reasons. I would be careful to paint a brush over our entire program.”
Dantonio said it would not be “fair” to identify the suspended players who did not have involvement in the alleged sexual assault incident, even if it means further speculation about who is suspended for what.
“I don’t think that would be fair to do that right now just based on the situation because I think that in doing that I’m pointing a compass toward other individuals, so I’m not going there with that,” Dantonio said.
With the investigation lingering like a cloud over the program, Dantonio said MSU “slightly” considered canceling the spring game, but ultimately decided otherwise. He also conceded that he thought the investigation would have been wrapped up by the time the game was played. Nonetheless, he said morale of the team has “been as strong as it’s ever been” and he anticipates the Spartans rebounding from an abysmal 3-9 record in 2016.
“I think human nature tells you people will bind together in tough situations and they will go forward more unified,” Dantonio said. “There will be more clarity. There’ll be a re-centering. That’s always the case, I think without question that’ll happen.”
In one bit of roster news, Dantonio announced that defensive back Drake Martinez has left the program. Martinez landed at MSU in 2015 as a junior college transfer. He began his career at Nebraska. Additionally, Dantonio confirmed the previously reported departures of offensive lineman Thiyo Lukusa and linebacker Jon Reschke. Both were projected starters in 2017.
For more Michigan State news, visit SpartanMag.com.
More college football from Yahoo Sports:
– – – – – – –