There is perhaps no more important, more disgusting, or more disheartening story in the world of sports right now than the conviction of Larry Nassar for years of sexual harassment, abuse and assault of both student athletes at Michigan State and young athletes within USA Gymnastics. The testimony from the over 150 victims who were willing to speak publicly in court, punctuated by six-time Olympic medalist Aly Raisman, made it impossible to ignore the damage this man had done. The case has resulted in the entire board of directors of USA Gymnastics stepping down, as well as the resignations of Michigan State’s president and athletic director.
As someone who enjoys following and discussing issues where sports intersect with the rest of the world, this is something I would have liked to write about. However, beyond simply expressing my horror at the negligence of Nassar’s employers and the terrible things he has done to so many, I didn’t know what else to say. Something I’ve been open to since I started doing these blogs is having friends, other people who are passionate and informed sports fans but don’t cover sports for a living, contribute writing of their own.
So I welcomed when Logan Springgate, a Michigan State alumnus and good friend of mine, offered to share his thoughts on all of this from his personal perspective:
So it’s definitely been a tough couple weeks to be an alumnus of Michigan State University. As usual, I’m having a hard time organizing my thoughts about a major event. I try really hard to censor myself (with regards to profanity online) and keep a clean social media profile, but F#CK MAN this is so unbelievably, unspeakably awful. I’ve wanted to share every ESPN Outside the Lines article about it. They’ve done an incredible job reporting both the Larry Nassar case and the Title IX cases against the school. Their reporting goes back to 2009-2010 and would’ve been published much sooner was it not for the interference of a university that I respected and attended. I highly recommend you read everything that they’ve done on both.
I think that anyone who attended the school has been ready for years for the ouster of Pres. Lou Anna K. Simon. Sexual assault was not handled well at the school while I was there and most of my time was after they “reformed their system” to better comply with Title IX and the Dept. of Education. While I never knew of any cases personally, there were plenty of second-hand stories and innuendo going around to feel confident that the university didn’t know how to handle these situations (whether they included athletes or not). Simon was more or less unapologetic to the end, blaming “tragedies [being] politicized” for her situation. Good riddance to you and I’m pretty embarrassed that the board asserted its support for you last week.
I’m a little sad to see the “retirement”/resignation of Mark Hollis. Don’t get me wrong; it needed to happen because of gross mismanagement of MSU’s athletic department in the last 10 years, if not longer. However, he had done great things for college basketball and its marketing as a whole. Basketball games on aircraft carriers, on Air Force bases like Ramstein, between top tier teams at the Champions Classic, etc. have all been brain-children of Hollis. None of this excuses the (at best) ignorance towards or (at worst) criminal negligence of Larry Nassar’s treatment of Michigan State athletes and other young women, as well as multiple cover-ups of sexual assaults perpetrated by MSU athletes.
I really still don’t know what to say about Izzo and Dantonio because they might be the people that I admired the most at the university. I had even spent the last year saying how “I thought university definitely had a sexual assault problem, but that I thought they did a great job handling the case against Donnie Corley [and two other players].” They raped a woman at a party and were subsequently suspended from the team before being expelled from the university as it became clear that the allegations were true. Now it’s clear that this case was handled properly only in response to the ongoing government oversight of the university. Adreian Payne was my favorite basketball player that I watched in my time at MSU and now I’m disgusted by him because of the ESPN reporting that has looked into his history with sexual assault. Back to the coaches: I’d like to think that accusations were taken up with the athletic department and largely were over the coaches’ heads, but that seems like a fantasy. Especially at major universities, coaches are well aware of what their players are up to.
Finally, the saddest part is that I actually believe what Dantonio said: “Every incident reported in that article was documented by either police or the Michigan State Title IX office.” I believe that MSU’s Title IX office was so underfunded and ill-equipped that these cases may have been reported to them without any sort of consequences. OTL reported that MSU’s Title IX office had a budget of just $300k in 2015; a tiny amount at a university of over 50,000 students. The budget has quadrupled in 2 years, but this seems like too little, too late when assaults had been regularly taking place for years.
There is only one bright spot in all of this. I am so proud of what the student body has done in the last couple months. Since November there have been “break the silence” protests at Board of Trustee meetings. A week and a half ago, the State News, the student newspaper, called on Pres. Simon to resign. On Wednesday, there was a campus-wide march/protest that led to the resignation of the president of the university. Finally, the basketball student section (one of the few student organizations I actively participated in) raised enough money to distribute 1500 teal (a nationally recognized color for honoring sexual assault survivors) t-shirts to show support for the victims of Larry Nassar at the home game against Wisconsin Friday night. This demonstration was entirely student-organized and was not sanctioned by the university.
I should mention that this is the first time I’ve sat down and tried to collect my thoughts about all of this. As the story develops, I’m sure that I’ll have more to say but, for now, this is what I’ve got.
Editor’s Note: Since this was written last Friday, Izzo has addressed the media multiple times. Jemele Hill, another MSU grad, wrote a column for The Undefeated this morning specifically addressing both coaches’ responses. It can be found here: http://theundefeated.com/features/michigan-state-basketball-coach-tom-izzo-stop-deflecting-and-start-talking/
As Logan mentioned, the State News has done great work covering this story. They have worked alongside ESPN’s ‘Outside the Lines’ and I encourage everyone to follow their combined coverage if you are interested in this story.
If there is anyone who would be interested in sharing their thoughts about this case from a different perspective that also comes from a personal connection to the story, I’d certainly be willing to share it.
Furthermore, if there is a sports-related topic you’d enjoy writing about but don’t know how or where to share it always feel free to send me a message.
Thank you to Logan for writing, and thanks as always for reading.