Tom Izzo only wanted to talk about basketball.
On Sunday afternoon in College Park, Md., Izzo's No. 6 ranked Michigan State Spartans rallied from down 13 to defeat the Maryland Terrapins 74-66.
The win keeps Michigan State just 1.5 games behind conference-leading Purdue, but also provided one of the first true chances Izzo had to speak to the media in the wake of the sentencing of Dr. Larry Nasser, a Michigan State University doctor who was in charge of team medicine for the U.S. Olympics gymnastics program.
I just hope that everybody rallies behind this team a little bit, and I hope we all rally behind the survivors, and we make our community a better place," Izzo said during his postgame interview on CBS.
When he took to the dais in the Xfinity Center media room, Izzo tried to stick to the game, but it was clear what was on everyone's mind.
"i've cooperated with every investigation and will continue to do so," Izzo said, before insisting that he will only answer basketball questions.
Izzo was then pressed by an ESPN Outside the Lines reporter."You understand of course we have a lot of questions and you have not given any answers."
Izzo's response: "Nope. And I’m not gonna right now. Sorry.”
But this is a basketball issue. It is a Michigan State university issue. it is a Michigan State athletics issue.
On Friday, an ESPN Outside the Lines report uncovered a litany of evidence that suggests Michigan State officials engaged in “denial, inaction, and information suppression” when made aware of sexual assault accusations against members of the men’s football and basketball teams.
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In 2010, two Michigan State basketball players were accused of sexual assault by a fellow Michigan State student. One of the players refused to speak with police, while the other player corroborated the victim's claims, evening stating "I understand how she would feel that she was not free to leave.”
The two players involved — then-incoming freshmen Keith Appling and Adriean Payne — we're never charged, or reprimanded by Izzo. The same Outside the Lines report also stated that Izzo allowed undergraduate student assistant coach Travis Walton to continue to work with the team even after he was accused of punching a women at a bar. Another student claimed Walton had sexually assaulted her several months prior.
When asked about Walton, Izzo did not have a lot to say.
"It's been hard to focus on basketball, because when I do, I feel guilty," Izzo said, trying keep the focus on his team's stellar second-half performance on Sunday.
While Izzo has never been found guilty of covering up or deterring sexual assault accusations, there is no room for error given the current climate. Even Izzo, one of the "good guys" in college basketball, is not free from criticism. Izzo knows better than most that he's not just a basketball coach. He is an educator, a boss, an advocate, a spokesperson, and a role model.
March is typically when Izzo and his team shine. But March Madness can wait, because Izzo needs to shine now.
With the university president and the athletic director out of power, Izzo is in a position to be completely transparent and go above and beyond to help the victims, something both AD Mark Hollis and school president Lou Ann Simon did not do.
Izzo didn't "lose the press conference" per se, but he didn't win it either. Izzo wants to do what's best here. He feels for all those involved, but his words on Sunday weren't enough.
Izzo could have stepped up and been the guiding light, as he's been in the past. He wanted to talk basketball.
But this is a basketball issue and Izzo should have said more.