Michigan State: ‘Nothing to support’ ESPN claims Tom Izzo interfered with probe

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EAST LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State is firing back after a recent report said basketball coach Tom Izzo perhaps interfered with an investigation surrounding a member of the basketball team.

On Thursday, ESPN published a report saying Izzo along with assistant coaches Dwayne Stephens and Mike Garland contacted a witness in the investigation involving walk-on Brock Washington, who was accused of criminal sexual conduct after an encounter on campus in 2017. The story came after ESPN reviewed documents where the witness states he did not believe the coaches were trying “to get information.”

By Thursday afternoon, athletic director Bill Beekman issued a statement defending Izzo and his staff.

“Tom Izzo has been a beacon of integrity in his profession for nearly four decades, including a quarter century as head coach,” Beekman said in the statement. “Michigan State’s Office of Institutional Equity has gone on record to say that no policies were violated in regards to any actions taken by the men’s basketball staff during a Title IX investigation into a student. There’s nothing to support any claims that any member of the men’s basketball staff conducted their own investigation, or interfered with any ongoing investigation. Any insinuation to the contrary is nothing more than an attempt to smear a coach, a program, and an entire university.”

ESPN referenced interviews with Michigan State student Brayden Smith by the MSU Police as well as a Title IX investigation by the university’s OIE. In both reports, Smith said he was contacted by Izzo, Stephens and Garland.

Smith is a close friend of Washington and was with him on the night of the incident. Smith is also the son of former Michigan State basketball player Steve Smith. Izzo was an assistant coach during Steve Smith’s time at MSU and Stephens was a teammate. While Brayden Smith does not play basketball at Michigan State, he has a close relationship with the coaches.

In both the MSU Police report and Title IX report obtained by The News from the Ingham County Prosecutor, Brayden Smith is interviewed about what he saw the night of the incident. Near the end each interview he was asked if he spoke to anyone else about the case and said he spoke with the three coaches.

The MSU Police report says Smith indicated his “perception of the conversation with them was not to get information out of him, but rather to ensure that he was okay and remind him to be responsible.”

Smith went on to say in the report that he “considers these coaches to have personal long-standing relationships with him and his family. … These men are like family to him.”

Washington pleaded guilty in early 2018 to misdemeanor assault, according to police records.

At the time, officials with the prosecutors office declined to comment, saying there was no public record. That likely means Washington pleaded under a provision in Michigan law that allows offenders ages 17 through 23 to plead guilty without a court entering a judgment of conviction, essentially keeping the crime off the public record and dismissing the case as long as terms of a probation are fulfilled.

This season, Izzo suspended Washington before Michigan State’s game at Indiana on Jan. 23 but no explanation was given. Washington remained suspended the rest of the season.


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