Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Report: Tom Izzo contacted witness before police, was cleared by OIE

April 2, 2020
<p>Head basketball coach Tom Izzo speaks at the introductory press conference for new head football coach Mel Tucker at the Breslin Student Events Center on Feb. 12, 2020.</p>

Head basketball coach Tom Izzo speaks at the introductory press conference for new head football coach Mel Tucker at the Breslin Student Events Center on Feb. 12, 2020.

Photo by Matt Zubik | The State News

ESPN reported on Thursday morning that MSU men's basketball coach Tom Izzo and two assistant coaches (Dwayne Stevens and Mike Garland) contacted a witness during an investigation of sexual assault involving then-freshman guard Brock Washington in 2017 before that witness had discussed the incident with police or school investigators.

MSU student Brayden Smith, son of former MSU basketball star Steve Smith, was with Washington on the night, which was later reported as Aug. 28, 2017, a woman reported Washington forcibly groped her. When police officers interviewed Smith, he said he had already been contacted by Izzo, Stevens and Garland about the incident.

Washington pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault in 2018.

According to a Michigan State Title IX report, "Mr. Smith said he was sought out by Mr. Izzo and other members of the basketball coaching staff. Mr. Smith said they asked him what he knew and if he was OK."

Michigan State University spokeswoman Emily Guerrant wrote in an email to ESPN that the university has policies against interfering with an investigation but "OIE (Office of Institutional Equity) did not feel those policies were violated in this situation."

Smith's father played for MSU between 1987-91 when Izzo was an assistant coach under Jud Heathcote. Although Brayden Smith never played for MSU, he referred to the coaches as his "godfathers," according to the Title IX report.

Guerrant later said that she could not speak to whether the Title IX investigator considered Smith's relationship with the coaches when weighing his testimony.

"Tom Izzo has been a beacon of integrity in his profession for nearly four decades, including a quarter century as head coach," athletic director Bill Beekman said in a statement in response to the ESPN article. "Michigan State's Office of Institutional Equity has gone on record to say that no policies were violated in regards to any actions taken by the men's basketball staff during a Title IX investigation into a student. There's nothing to support claims that any member of the men's basketball staff conduced their own investigation, or interfered with any ongoing investigation. Any insinuation to the contrary is nothing more than an attempt to smear a coach, a program, and an entire university."

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