How Does Tom Izzo, Michigan State Focus on Basketball?

Michigan State rallied back from a double digit deficit on the road against Maryland Sunday afternoon. After a sluggish start, and trailing the entire first half, the Spartans poured in 50 in the final 20 minutes to top Maryland, 74-68. The win moved Michigan State to 8-2 in the conference, and kept them within striking distance of Ohio State and Purdue. That was really the only positive news for the Michigan State basketball program over the weekend.

It’s been hard to ignore Michigan State in the headlines over the past few days, for reasons outside sports. Last week, Larry Nassar, who was a former Team USA Gymnastics coach, as well as a team doctor as Michigan State, was sentenced to 40-175 years in prison for sexual abuse of over 150 women. The trial included four days of testimonies from victims speaking directly to Nassar about his horrific actions.

Larry Nassar is going to jail for a long, long time. Most likely for the rest of his life. What he has done however, is leave a cookie crumb trail leading back to Michigan State. A trail that will be dissected for the foreseeable future. On Wednesday of last week, University President, Lou Anna Simon resigned. She was the first, but far from the last.

Two days later, MSU athletic director Mark Hollis announced his retirement as well. As Sports Illustrated reported, in his statement, Hollis said he is not running from anything, rather, running towards something. “Comfort, compassion and understanding for the survivors and our community; togetherness, time and love for my family.” Hollis said.

Reports also circulated Friday that head football coach Mark Dantonio and head basketball coach Tom Izzo were stepping down soon as well. Both coaches denied such reports and said they have no intentions of retiring. On Sunday though, Tom Izzo was grilled by an Outside the Lines reporter after the game in College Park. Following the Nassar trial, OTL reported cases of sexual assault within the men’s basketball program. You can see the uncomfortable back and forth in the video recorded by Josh Stirn of 247Sports below.

The press conference leaves a lot to still be answered. You can see the constant questioning wear on Izzo. Many people want immediate action to be taken, and that’s fair. In a case of this magnitude, people need to be held accountable. As mentioned early, Larry Nassar’s case opened up a can of worms within the University. I expect Tom Izzo will eventually talk about the reports from Outside the Lines, but it will only come when he and the school are ready. You can be sure all avenues will be investigated and he will be questioned every step of the way. For now though, how does Michigan State, and Izzo focus on basketball? Is it even possible?

Many will say they shouldn’t. There can absolutely be a case that Izzo should remove himself from coaching in the midst of some of this. But at the same time, it’s innocent until proven guilty and not the other way around. Izzo said he has no plans of stepping down or retiring. Until he talks however, basketball will continue to be the second biggest thing surrounding the Michigan State basketball team. A top ten team in the country will be playing with an enormous cloud over their heads.

While it seems unfair to make his team bear the weight of this lingering allegation or accusation, it appears that is what is going to happen. As a result, you can expect every Michigan State game to be emotional, and followed with many post game questions that do not pertain to the game. Just look at the post game reaction Sunday. It was more than a January road win. It was a sigh of relief. Short, but relief nonetheless.

 

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