Michigan State: NCAA finds no rule violations in sexual assault cases

The NCAA does not see a need for further inquiry into any potential violations of the organization's rules regarding sexual assault cases at Michigan State, the university announced Thursday.

Michigan State said it received a letter from Jonathan Duncan, the NCAA's vice president of enforcement, on Wednesday, saying that no NCAA violations were found in a review of how the school responded to sexual assaults committed by former university doctor Larry Nassar or how the school handled separate sexual assault allegations made against members of the football and men's basketball programs.

"We welcome closure in regards to the NCAA inquiry," athletic director Bill Beekman said in a statement Thursday morning. "MSU cooperated fully with the inquiry over the past several months and provided all requested documentation and access to key personnel."

The NCAA contacted Michigan State on Jan. 23 amid the public sentencing hearing for Nassar, who was sentenced to up to 175 years in state prison for using his authority as a doctor to sexually abuse his patients. Several former MSU athletes and others said during those hearings that they told authority figures on campus about Nassar's abuse, but their complaints were not taken seriously.

Thursday's announcement came hours after former Michigan State gymnastics coach Kathie Klages was arraigned on two counts of lying to police about complaints she received about Nassar. Former youth gymnast Larissa Boyce said she told Klages about Nassar's abuse in 1997, and that Klages discouraged her from reporting it to anyone else.

Lindsey Lemke, a former captain of the Michigan State gymnastics team, said Klages ignored her concerns about Nassar in the fall of 2016 and had the team sign a sympathy card for the former team doctor after he was fired.

"It's a good thing there are multiple other investigations going on other than [the] NCAA, where hopefully they will be able to reveal more truth of how this situation got to be as bad as it did," Lemke said to WLNS and later to ESPN on Thursday. "If the world's worst pedophile in history working at MSU and getting away with abuse for 20 years isn't considered a violation, then what is the point?"

Michigan's attorney general appointed a special prosecutor to investigate "every corner" of the university and how it handles sexual assault issues. That investigation resulted in Klages' arrest and remains open. The U.S. Department of Education also has two ongoing investigations regarding Michigan State's handling of the Nassar case and reports of sexual violence involving Michigan State athletes.

Beekman said in his statement that "the NCAA findings do not change a thing" in regard to the crimes Nassar committed on Michigan State's campus or the school's commitment to improving the health, safety and wellness of its athletes.

Michigan State's statement said the NCAA's second inquiry into how it handles student-athlete conduct issues stemmed from an Outside The Lines report in January, which said the school had shown a "pattern of denial, inaction and information suppression" when handling allegations against athletes of sexual misconduct and violence toward women.

The NCAA's letter to Michigan State on Wednesday said its review of "the institution's handling of student conduct allegations involving football and men's basketball student-athletes ... has not substantiated violations of NCAA legislation" and that "it does not appear there is need for further inquiry."

Beekman said the letter from the NCAA provides external validation of how football coach Mark Dantonio and basketball coach Tom Izzo administer their programs.

"Mark and Tom represent the athletic department and Michigan State University with integrity," Beekman said.

Both coaches issued statements Thursday, emphasizing they've tried to do things "the right way" at Michigan State.

"I have never wavered in my belief that we have done things the right way here at Michigan State," Dantonio said. "As I have stated earlier, we've always tackled our problems head on and have dealt with issues. We welcome the findings by the thorough NCAA investigation that our program has acted properly with all policies and procedures."

Said Izzo: "Throughout my career, I've always placed the utmost priority on winning the right way. As I said in February, when faced with disciplinary issues, I've handled those in accordance with all appropriate policies and procedures. After a very thorough review, the NCAA provides confirmation that our program has done that."

Michigan State officials said this spring they would handle an accusation made against former player and assistant coach Travis Walton differently if it were made today.

The April 2010 sexual assault allegation involving Walton became public in January after Outside the Lines obtained a letter written by former Michigan State sexual assault counselor Lauren Allswede. The woman did not report the incident to police, but according to Allswede's letter, the woman's parents did report the incident to representatives of the athletic department, including then-athletic director Mark Hollis. The letter states that Hollis said he would "conduct his own investigation."

Hollis retired hours before the report was made public.

Izzo has declined multiple interview requests and has declined to answer questions on the subject during several public news conferences in the months following the Outside The Lines report.

Carolyn Schaner, who alleged in the Outside The Lines report that Michigan State mishandled sexual assault allegations she made in 2010, said she was not contacted by the NCAA as part of its inquiry. Karen Truszkowski, an attorney who represents multiple clients currently suing the university for sexual assault issues involving student-athletes, said she also was not contacted by the NCAA for its inquiry.

Allswede said she was interviewed by the NCAA's investigators but does not feel the issue has been fully resolved at this point.

"I told the investigator my experiences while at MSU, and how my experiences working with allegations involving athletes were handled differently than allegations against non-athletes," Allswede said. "I have asked different administrators within the university and through several federal investigations about my experiences, with the hope each time that there was an explanation or answer that would justify actions taken and decisions made.

"To this date, nobody has been able to answer my questions or explain why certain cases involving athletes were handled differently. The NCAA concluded their investigation, but I don't have any clarity or assurance, and I don't believe there's been a resolution."

ESPN's Paula Lavigne and Nicole Noren contributed to this report.

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