MSU football head coach Mark Dantonio breaks silence, speaks to media for first time since February
It has been 55 days since MSU football head coach Mark Dantonio’s last press conference on National Signing Day, which was on Feb. 1.
Dantonio spoke in front of reporters for the first time Tuesday since an alleged sexual assault involving three MSU football players and a staff member was made public and resulted in the emergence of three investigations.
Dantonio, who is entering his 11th season at the helm of the Spartan football program, made a statement through a university release on Feb. 28 regarding the incident and said it was something he is “extremely concerned about and taking very seriously" in the statement. However, he was not available to take questions at that time.
Dantonio said on Tuesday the decision to suspend the three players was a choice made by the administration at MSU and the football program.
Several days after the allegations were made public, it was announced that the director of college advancement and performance Curtis Blackwell was suspended with pay. Although his suspension has not officially been connected to the alleged sexual assault case of the three athletes and MSU staff member, Dantonio dismissed any questions regarding Blackwell.
Amid the active investigations, the media has had limited availability to the football program — there was no introductory spring practice season press conference, a spring depth chart was not released, no players were made available to speak after spring practices and the drill portion of MSU’s Pro Day was closed to reporters.
“Probably the primary reason I have not met with the press is because (the allegations are something we are extremely concerned about),” Dantonio said. “We wanted to respect the process and all and everything that goes along with that.”
Although the Green-White Spring Game is just four days away, Dantonio diverted any talk about football because of the seriousness of the alleged incident.
“I think to stand up here and talk about who’s going to be our quarterback right now is trivial compared to what we’re dealing with," Dantonio said. "That’s why I’ve not wanted to do that. Didn’t want to come up here and talk about spring practice, talk about depth charts or those types of things because I thought it was unfair to the investigation as a whole, so we refrain from doing that.”
Dantonio said he hopes not discussing football will speak volumes to how serious the program is taking the accusations.
“I think by (not talking about football), I hope everybody understands how serious that we are taking this relative to our football program and what we’re trying to do," Dantonio said. "I hope everybody understands that it’s not business as usual — that everything that we’ve done has been done collectively.”
Dantonio added that there have been other players suspended from the program beyond the three who are involved in the alleged sexual assault case, but would not state any names.
He did announce, however, that cornerback Drake Martinez has decided to transfer.
“This is an extremely challenging time for all of us,” Dantonio said. “I don’t think there’s any question that it’s impacted our program from how we do business on a day-to-day basis with (the media) to how we do business internally, how our players are interviewed to access to our spring practices to everything we’ve done and that’s because of the process that we’ve been involved in.”
Dantonio said the players will wear their respective name and number on their jerseys. As a result, the fans and media will be left with rumors and speculation as to who is on the field and who isn’t.
“My goal in coming here was to always foster a program where there was accountability, there was integrity and that there was class in everything that we tried to do from winning to how we lost on the football field — everything involved,” Dantonio said. “And that will remain in place as we move through this, and as difficult as it is today to stand up there, those are the things that have to remain in effect as far as Mark Dantonio is concerned.”