Michigan State’s football program hasn’t had the type of offseason anyone would wish for. There’s been an on-going sexual assault investigation involving three players and earlier this month there was a second investigation opened up.
That investigation has led to charges, with sophomore defensive tackle Auston Robertson being charged with third degree sexual misconduct. Just hours after the charges were filed, head coach Mark Dantonio kicked Roberston off the team per the Detroit Free Press.
“The criminal sexual conduct charges announced today against Auston Robertson are of the most serious nature,” Dantonio said in a statement released by the university. “Sexual assault has no place in our community. While there is an ongoing criminal process, we’re extremely disappointed that Auston put himself in this position. He is no longer a member of our football program.”
Robertson had been suspended prior to his dismissal and has had a red-flag raised before he signed on with the Spartans. He was supposed to sign with the rest of the 2016 class on national signing day, but didn’t after a misdemeanor charge of battery was levied against him in January of that year.
He was accused of inappropriately touching a female classmate and avoided jail time by entering a diversionary program. That program was completed on March 11 of this year, and now Robertson finds himself facing serious felony charges.
Dantonio and the Spartans may come under fire for even bringing Robertson in to the program in the first place. However, the head coach took the unprecedented step of releasing the details of what was done to try to help Robertson overcome his behavioral issues.
In his statement, Dantonio talked about educational projects put in place on top of the diversionary plan that was put in place in Indiana and finished in Michigan.
“Due to the charges he was facing during his recruitment, we took precaution in allowing Auston to be a part of our football program, including a thorough vetting, which we acknowledged publicly at his signing. This was a multiple-step process that continued through his final admission in the summer.”
MSU also took the time to invest its resources to help him turn things around off the field. That apparently included a long list of prerequisites that were to be strictly maintained and clearly weren’t.
That included classes in behavior and developmental growth, per Dantonio’s release.
“Following his arrival on campus, he underwent an extensive educational process with specific prerequisites put in place for his participation as a student-athlete. This included daily supervised sessions within the football program and regular meetings with university staff addressing appropriate behavior and developmental growth.
“He also successfully completed his one-year diversionary program as directed by the court, which included a 22-week course focused on behavior changes that began in Indiana and was transferred to the state of Michigan (Prevention and Training Services). Despite these measures, Auston broke our trust and expectations by putting himself in a compromising situation.”
Dantonio’s actions were decisive once charges were officially filed and it is hard to fault the coach given all the time and effort the program and the university had put in to his personal and football development.
At some point the person needs to want to do those things on his own and Robertson’s pattern of behavior suggests that he needs way more help than the Spartans are able to provide.
This also shines the light on just how fine a line college athletic departments walk when it comes to bringing on players with a checkered past. Indiana University has recently banned any athlete from its program who has a domestic or sexual violence conviction on their record.
That sort of policy may be something athletic director Mark Hollis wants to study hard in the coming months. Given the high-profile nature of the conversation around sexual violence on college campuses and the cloud of investigation still hanging over the athletic department, this type of move would certainly be a way to remedy the situation.
It may also need to be taken on a case-by-case basis, but certainly a step in sending the right message to young kids with aspirations to play at the highest levels.