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Sunday, July 12, 2020

Ex-MSU staffer alleges Mark Dantonio ignored warnings of player accused of sexual assault

Michigan State Spartans Football head coach Mark Dantonio allegedly ignored his assistants’ warnings while recruiting a player that later was accused of sexual assault, according to a former MSU staffer who is suing Dantonio, former athletic director Mark Hollis, former university president Lou Anna Simon and two university police officers.

Curtis Blackwell’s deposition alleges that Dantonio gave the green-light to bringing aboard recruit Auston Robertson despite warnings that he presented a serious problem; Robertson was later sentenced to up to 10 years in prison for sexual assault. He had previously been accused of sexual misconduct in Indiana and had been kicked off his high school team and out of school during his senior year in Fort Wayne.

The deposition also alleges that Dantonio worked to get Robertson admitted despite having a sub-par academic performance.


“Important information was omitted from an investigation into how the athletic department handled a pair of sexual misconduct allegations involving football players.

Former Michigan State recruiting director Curtis Blackwell is suing Dantonio, former athletic director Mark Hollis, former university president Lou Anna Simon and two university police officers for wrongful termination and unlawful arrest. Blackwell claimed in court records filed on Thursday that he was made a scapegoat amid fallout from the sexual misconduct allegations against Spartan players in early 2017. Blackwell was suspended shortly after the first incident, and his year-to-year contract with the football program was not renewed later that year. Dantonio cited “philosophical differences” shortly after they parted ways when asked why Blackwell’s contract was not renewed.

Blackwell was arrested in February 2017 on suspicion of interfering with or obstructing a police investigation of the sexual assault allegations involving then-freshmen football players Donnie Corley, Demetric Vance and Josh King. He was not charged with a crime. Michigan State hired the Jones Day law firm to review how the institution and athletic department leaders responded to the sexual assault allegations. Blackwell declined to speak with Jones Day’s investigators, who concluded that Blackwell broke school policy by not properly reporting what he knew about the alleged sexual assault. The Jones Day report cleared Dantonio and all other Michigan State employees of any wrongdoing.

“It seems as though Michigan State used Jones Day to clear the football staff of any wrongdoing and make it all look as if I was the only person that did anything wrong,” Blackwell said in a deposition for his lawsuit


During the course of the Jones Day investigation in 2017, another football player, defensive end Auston Robertson, sexually assaulted the girlfriend of one of his teammates. He was dismissed from the team when he was charged with a crime, and later pleaded guilty and was sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.

Blackwell said in his deposition that multiple assistant coaches asked Dantonio not to offer Robertson a spot on the roster because he had a history of troubling behavior. Blackwell said he witnessed defensive line coach Ron Burton tell Dantonio that he didn’t want Robertson to be on the same campus as his daughter.

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Michael Whitaker
Always at the front lines of Detroit Sports.

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