Thursday, February 27, 2020

Suzy Merchant reflects on National Girls and Women in Sports Day

February 2, 2018
<p>Women's basketball head coach Suzy Merchant shouts towards a player during the game against Iowa on Feb. 1, 2018, at the Breslin Center. The Spartans fell to the Hawkeyes, 71-68 in overtime.</p>

Women's basketball head coach Suzy Merchant shouts towards a player during the game against Iowa on Feb. 1, 2018, at the Breslin Center. The Spartans fell to the Hawkeyes, 71-68 in overtime.

Photo by Matt Schmucker | The State News

The women’s basketball team Thursday night celebrated National Girls and Women in Sports Day by wearing teal shirts. Athletes from all around MSU women’s athletics were honored at halftime for their achievements and awards this past season.

After women's basketball's 71-68 overtime loss to Iowa, head coach Suzy Merchant said seeing all the women athletes representing MSU shows the support for the strength and courage of the 250-plus survivors of ex-MSU and USA Gymnastic doctor Larry Nassar's abuse. During Thursday's press conference, Merchant gave a rare opening statement before she answered questions.

"It's been tough at Michigan State the last few weeks here, but it's certainly nothing compared to what those women went through," Merchant said. "I'm confident we'll move forward, we'll support the survivors and Michigan State will create the change to move forward in a positive direction."

The Spartans have now lost four in a row and now have dropped to 14-9 on the season and 4-6 in the Big Ten. Two of the losses came during the week of the allegations against MSU in ESPN's "Outside The Lines" investigative report.

Merchant said it's the coaches' job to make sure the health and well-being of the student-athlete is first and foremost. The team needs to be emotionally, mentally and physically where they need to be.

"We've had several team meetings to ask questions or get some things out," Merchant said. "It's really heart-wrenching to many of them, and they're female athletes. ... I think our kids really wanted to show their support and I think their bravery and their courage when they saw (the survivors) step up and face their abuser is really inspiring."

Merchant said she grew up a Title IX child, who didn't know what it was like to go to college and play basketball with a scholarship. Merchant's mother never had that opportunity either.

"I think when you can celebrate and recognize young girls and women in sports, you learn so many lessons" Merchant said. "Even today, I was so frustrated, we were right there, lost a couple of close ones, but you know what, you've still got to get up the next day and hold your head high."

In an investigative report by OTL, allegations were raised against men's basketball head coach Tom Izzo and head football coach Mark Dantonio. Recently, former MSU athletic director Mark Hollis stepped down, along with former faculty athletic representative Sue Carter.

"It's hard for me to comment on men's basketball, football, track and field, or gymnastics, just like it's hard for them to comment on my team," Merchant said. "I really don't know what's going on in someone else's program, but I do know this, I know that we all should stand together as Spartans and move forward and find a way to make sure that the culture here at Michigan State is a positive one, and I think we're all committed to that."

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