Sunday, September 27, 2020

Report: Meeting was held to determine Robertson's admission status

January 13, 2020
<p>Head Coach Mark Dantonio is honored for his 110 wins after the homecoming game against Indiana on Sept. 28, 2019 at Spartan Stadium. The Spartans beat the Hoosiers, 40-31.</p>

Head Coach Mark Dantonio is honored for his 110 wins after the homecoming game against Indiana on Sept. 28, 2019 at Spartan Stadium. The Spartans beat the Hoosiers, 40-31.

Photo by Sylvia Jarrus | The State News

According to a recent report from The Detroit News, in 2016, a meeting was assembled of high-ranking MSU officials to discuss whether the university should admit troubled football recruit Auston Robertson.

Robertson's high school classmate in Fort Wayne, Indiana, accused him of groping her five times during his senior year of 2015-16. Robertson was not initially made part of MSU's 2016 recruiting class.

The meeting, between then-admissions director Jim Cotter and several esteemed Michigan State senior executives, among whom were then-secretary of the MSU Board of Trustees and athletic director Bill Beekman; then-MSU police chief James Dunlap; deputy athletic director and senior women’s administrator Jennifer Smith, vice president and associate provost for student affairs and services Denise Maybank; MSU football coach Mark Dantonio; and then-athletic director Mark Hollis.

Of the seven members present, four of the five men — Dantonio, Cotter, Beekman and Dunlap — said they believed the talented defensive lineman should be admitted. Hollis and the two women — Smith and Maybank — felt he did not belong on MSU's campus.

This came on the heels of an earlier 2016 meeting where, according to a deposition by ex-football staffer Curtis Blackwell, defensive line coach Ron Burton told Dantonio, "I have a daughter on that campus, and I wouldn't feel comfortable with Auston Robertson being on campus with my daughter."

Beekman, through a spokesperson, told the Detroit News that "as best as he can remember," he was not part of any such meeting.

MSU spokesperson Emily Guerrant told the Detroit News that the meeting, as described in the account, "did not take place." She mentioned that Dunlap, Beekman, and Smith all said the same.

On March 30, 2016, Dantonio announced Robertson's signing in a statement that read: "While utilizing all resources available to us to thoroughly review his situation ... given all the information available to us, we believe Auston should be provided with an opportunity to begin his education and playing career at Michigan State."

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Robertson did not repay Dantonio's faith in him. In April 2017, Robertson was charged with third-degree criminal sexual conduct for raping a woman in Meridian Township. In November 2018, he pled guilty to one count of assault with intent to commit criminal sexual penetration on a woman. He was sentenced to up to 10 years in prison in December 2018, and currently is serving at Newberry Correctional Facility in the Upper Peninsula.

Blackwell was not retained by the football program in May 2018, as Dantonio cited "philosophical differences" and a report by the law firm Jones Day cleared the football program of any wrongdoing in June 2018 with the exception of Blackwell, who filed suit against the university for unjust termination.

Dantonio was deposed earlier this month in response to Blackwell's suit.

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