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Izzo sees 'brighter days' with new president after 'embarrassing' MSU board conduct

November 27, 2023
<p>Head coach Tom Izzo walks back to the bench during the Spartans&#x27; 73-55 win over Northern Arizona on Nov. 7, 2022.</p>

Head coach Tom Izzo walks back to the bench during the Spartans' 73-55 win over Northern Arizona on Nov. 7, 2022.

Photo by Devin Anderson-Torrez | The State News

Michigan State University men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo said that a looming choice for the university’s presidency could spell "brighter days" after tumultuous board infighting. 

"Our board is, it's no secret, it’s been crazy and a little bit embarrassing," Izzo said at a news conference Monday. "But at the same time, I think when you go through something like that, everybody kind of figures out that 'hey, we gotta be doing what's best for the university' and I think that’s where our board is at now."

MSU's board is currently facing the presidential decision hot off a public fight over its own leadership.

Last month, two trustees called for the removal of board chair Rema Vassar over wide ranging allegations of misconduct and ethics policy violations. Vassar disputed the allegations and said she would not resign. The university ordered an outside investigation into the allegations, which is ongoing.

Now, the embattled board is debating who should fill the university's vacated presidency.

Two weeks ago, sources told The State News, they were deadlocked on two finalists: University of North Carolina chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and University of Texas San Antonio president Taylor Eighmy.

Eighmy then dropped out of consideration after learning his name would be made public, leaving Guskiewicz as the sole contender. 

Of the choices, Izzo said "from what I’ve seen, I like the candidates."

Izzo was a member of the presidential search committee that submitted candidates to the board for consideration. He said the committee gave the board five finalists before they narrowed it down to Eighmy and Guskiewicz. 

"Now that’s their selection, I’m out of it now" Izzo said.

It’s unclear what the board plans to do. The trustees and their spokespeople have declined to comment on the ongoing deliberations.

Guskiewicz has said he is "weighing" the position, but did not publicly commit to accept it if a formal offer is made.

The search that resulted in Guskiewicz's candidacy was conducted in complete secrecy, with the board refusing to publicly identify candidates or finalists, only committing to announce the chosen person at the end of the process.

But, since that secrecy was shattered by the State News report identifying Guskiewicz as the sole candidate, multiple groups have asked for chances to talk to him. 

MSU's faculty senate and MSU's Black alumni, faculty and staff organizations have all asked for Q&As with Guskiewicz. He has declined or not responded to their requests. 

That upset one faculty leader. 

"He now has an opportunity to answer some questions … I would hope someone who wants to be a bold leader of this university would be willing to talk to us before he signs the piece of paper," Faculty Senate Chair Jack Lipton said last week.

For the Black alumni and staff organizations, Guskiewicz’s past is troubling, making a potential public interview especially important.

Their requests raised concerns about a prominent Black journalist whose application for tenure was stalled under Guskiewicz, and his involvement in a controversial settlement made to a Confederate group upset with the removal of a campus statue at UNC. 

Stratton Lee III, president of the MSU Black Faculty, Staff and Administrators Association, said those events "are relevant to the necessity" of speaking with Guskiewicz. 

Izzo however said he has faith in the board's decision-making.

"There are brighter days coming up," Izzo said. "It's been a bit of a rough go, but there’s brighter days coming up."

Referencing both the presidential decision and the recent announcement of Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith as the next football coach, Izzo said "I think it’s gonna really come together."

"Maybe we get a president, a new football coach, and start getting this train back on the tracks," Izzo said. "When it does, I think it’s gonna be really exciting for all of us."

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