According to a recently released report from ESPN, Michigan State Spartans head coach Tom Izzo as well as two assistant coaches approached a witness that was the subject of a 2017 sexual assault investigation involving a Spartans player.
And here’s the kicker – it was before the witness talked about the matter with police or school officials.
Guard Brock Washington, who is currently suspended by the team, is alleged to have forcibly groped a female student in 2017.
The witness, a student named Brayden Smith, told police that he’d been talked to by members of the Spartans coaching staff about the incident.
“When police officers interviewed Smith about what he had seen that night in August 2017, he said he had already been contacted by Izzo and assistant coaches Dwayne Stephens and Mike Garland about the incident. They “asked [Smith] if he was OK and if there was anything that he had seen during the evening,” according to the report. Smith made a similar statement to a Michigan State Title IX investigator: “Mr. Smith said he was sought out by Mr. Izzo and other members of the basketball coaching staff. Mr. Smith said they asked him what he knew and if he was OK,” according to the Title IX report. Smith, who was not present for most of the interactions between Washington and the woman, told police that what he saw he thought was consensual.”
Co-founder of the Association of Title IX Administrators W. Scott Lewis said the actions of Izzy’s actions could result in a complaint to the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights or a lawsuit.
“You just don’t do that,” Lewis said.
“It’s entirely another level when my player says, ‘Oh, my friend Brayden was there,’ and you call Brayden in as a coach and say, ‘Tell me what your perspective is,'” Lewis said. “Now you’re investigating. You’re not just being supportive of your athletes. If you know the police are looking into this or the Title IX office is looking at this, it becomes even more inappropriate for you to step in and do your own ad hoc Title IX investigation.
“Once you’re calling in other people, it starts to reek of either you investigating this yourself or trying to intimidate a witness.”
Izzo has yet to respond to ESPN despite having been reached out to by phone and text.
– – Quotes via Paula Lavigne and Nicole Noren of ESPN Link – –