Michigan State's John Engler: Student Safety Takes Priority over Winning Games

Alec Nathan@@AlecBNathanFeatured ColumnistMay 10, 2018

In a photo from Oct. 13, 2014, former Michigan Gov. John Engler is seen during a Republican rally in Troy, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

Michigan State interim president John Engler said Thursday that he believes the school has not prioritized winning games over the safety of its students, following multiple sexual assault allegations against members of the football and basketball teams

According to ESPN.com's Dan Murphy, Engler "criticized media coverage and said he was concerned about any woman who says she was assaulted but not about how the school's high-profile sports have handled those accusations in the past" while speaking at a breakfast gathering organized by the Detroit Free Press

Engler also said he believes head football coach Mark Dantonio and head basketball coach Tom Izzo are men of "great personal integrity who run very clean programs." 

"That is not to say that everybody in those programs has always comported with what's expected of them," Engler added, per Murphy. 

Engler's comments come in the wake of an Outside the Lines investigation uncovered "a pattern of widespread denial, inaction and information suppression" by Michigan State officials regarding reports alleged of sexual misconduct and violence against women.

Specifically, it was reported at least 16 Michigan State football players had been accused of sexual assault or violence against women since Dantonio took over the program in 2007. 

The report also revealed allegations of sexual assault and domestic violence against members of Izzo's basketball team, including former Spartans guard and undergraduate assistant Travis Walton. 

Last month, OTL's Paula Lavgine reported that a current Michigan State student filed a lawsuit in United States district court in which it was alleged the school "failed to advise her of her rights and did not offer adequate resources for help" after she was raped by three basketball players in 2015. 

In the filing, the woman said Michigan State "has fostered a culture in which female victims are discouraged from reporting sexual assaults when those assaults are perpetrated by male athletes, thus protecting the university, the male athletics programs, and the male athletes at the expense of the female victims."

The school has also dealt with the fallout of the Larry Nassar scandal after the disgraced USA Gymnastics physician, also formerly employed by the school, was convicted on multiple counts of sexually abusing women and girls under the guise of medical treatment in two separate trials. 

He was sentenced for up to 175 years for the abuse in addition to 60 years on child pornography charges.

According to the Lansing State Journal's Matt Mencarini, the university has been sued by nearly 300 people over its handling of Nassar's conduct.  

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