Michigan State coach Tom Izzo is still refusing to enlighten the public on the details surrounding his university's handling of previous allegations of sexual and physical assault.
The embroiled Hall of Famer was asked for the third time in five days Wednesday about the scandal ensnaring his program and his university. Izzo offered little new information following the Spartans' 76-68 home victory over Penn State. And though he didn't divulge much, he again failed to improve his situation.
Near the end of Izzo's press conference, after a few similar questions were posed to him about why he's choosing not to speak out and if he's being advised or counseled toward that, Izzo insinuated it was more or less up to him what he wants to say.
"I don't know if I can't," Izzo said after he was asked if he has been advised not to say anything. "I can do whatever I want to do. But I just don't think it's the right time right now, and again, I apologize but I'm just going to stick to that."
That's a twist on preconceived notions. While lawyers have almost certainly gotten in Izzo's ear, if we're to take him at his word, then there might well not be a script for Izzo to go off of after all. And if it's in Izzo's control to say what he wants, then how must it feel for the victims and their families to hear him shake off questions about the public's concern of Michigan State's protocol when it came to previous issues of student well-being?
Izzo has continually expressed his support for the victims but he has yet to express regret over the way he, his program or his department might have dealt with sexual and physical assault. He has said he cooperated with every investigation, and will continue to do so, but for many, Izzo's words have fallen well short. If Izzo believes there is nothing to apologize for, he has not said that yet either, and that is why he and the media are at an impasse.
This process could repeat itself Saturday when MSU travels to play Indiana.
Izzo has developed a strong relationship with the press, earning widespread respect over the past 25 years because of how transparent and trusting he is with media. (In this regard, he is an aberration in his profession.) What makes his comment above so surprising is to hear that he might be choosing to withhold even broad information or personal statements for reasons that remain unclear. The previous thinking was that Izzo was muzzled by attorneys. To hear him Wednesday night was to hear otherwise. And knowing who Izzo is, it makes his choice look more stubborn than shrewd.
It goes against who he is.
The public deserves to know how Michigan State -- not even/only the men's basketball program necessarily, but the athletic department or the school itself -- handled sexual assault allegations against Spartans basketball players. The public deserves to know if the story laid out is accurate in how it painted the school as a negligent conglomerate when it came to dealing with sexual and physical assault accusations against Michigan State student-athletes.
Former MSU basketball captaincategorically denying all accusations against him detailed in ESPN's story.
If details in ESPN's story are not accurate, as Walton and former basketball player Keith Appling have declared, then it's time Michigan State assembled a press conference, even a press release -- anything to move this story toward a resolution. At this point, Izzo is in deflect mode. It's a strategy that has only continued to bring noise and speculation around him, his program and the school.
"The one thing I've done my whole career, I've had great respect for the media," Izzo said when asked about Walton's statement by an ESPN reporter Wednesday night. "And you have the right to ask. And unfortunately I have no additional comments. I've given my comments, I have no additional ones. I will cooperate with the investigation, as I always have with any investigation. That's about all I'm going to say about it."
Izzo was not asked if Walton did indeed live at Izzo's house around the time Walton was accused of physical assault and, in a separate incident, a gang rape. Coincidentally, last Wednesday -- two days before ESPN's "Outside the Lines" report was published -- a story in the Lima News revealed that Walton was apparently staying in Izzo's basement as he completed his degree in 2010. If that is true, it is one of many lingering issues Izzo has hovering above his head.
Izzo was also questioned about a timeline for when he expects to reveal more.
"I think there will be a time when I'll be able to speak, but it isn't right now," he said. "There's too many things going on, with the survivors and everything. I'm going to stick to my guns and tell you that I still have great support for the survivors, but I'm just not going to have any comment on this whole situation."
As for those survivors, Izzo said Wednesday night that he and his team are open to meeting with as many of them as possible but "there's so many things that have to take place before that."
Wednesday was the final day for Mark Hollis as acting athletic director at Michigan State. Hollis announced his retirement last Friday, hours before ESPN's story was published. He is yet to comment on that story. Izzo, meanwhile, has taken the most heat since in three press conferences. Though some questions posed to Izzo on Wednesday were basketball-oriented, Michigan State's 21-3 season and chase for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament have become an afterthought.
"I have an understanding of what is going on, the best I can, I'm just going to handle it by keep working, keep my mouth shut and do my job," Izzo said. "When the time comes, then I'm going to address the things that I need to address."
Without any indication on when that time is, speculation and criticism will only swell for Izzo. He knows this, but something bigger is driving him to stay silent. Eventually, perhaps, he'll divulge that too.
For context of Izzo's answers, here's the entire video of his presser Wednesday night.