A former Michigan State staffer suing the university, Spartans coach Mark Dantonio and others for wrongful termination said in a deposition filed Thursday that an assistant coach once told Dantonio that he wouldn’t want his daughter on the same campus as Auston Robertson during Robertson’s recruitment.
Robertson was sentenced to up to 10 years in jail in December after he agreed to aplea deal after raping a woman in April 2017 at an off campus apartment. He signed with Michigan State after he entered a diversionary program for inappropriately touching a female classmate in high school. He was also accused of rape while in high school.
Dantonio released a statement when Robertson signed with the school ahead of the 2016 season that Robertson’s acceptance into the school’s recruiting class was “evaluated over the last three months while utilizing all resources available to us to thoroughly review his situation.”
Per Curtis Blackwell, the team’s former recruiting director, one of the people against signing Robertson was defensive tackles coach Ron Burton.
“And, well, so the way that I really knew that it was sexual, when Ron Burton looked at me,” Blackwell said in a deposition about high school accusations against Robertson. “I mean, what he said to Coach Dantonio and Dave, like, I have a daughter on that campus and I wouldn’t feel comfortable with Auston Robertson being on campus with my daughter. And so that’s when I knew, you know, like man, it was fairly serious.”
He added that the fact that Burton would be Robertson’s position coach made the input carry more weight.
“I knew it was very serious if he didn’t want, because that’s his coach. And he’s a d-lineman and he would be coaching him, so and Auston Robertson was a special athlete that Dantonio wanted. So for Ron Burton to say that it was that bad that he didn’t want his daughter around him, I knew he had some real serious sexual issues.”
A Michigan State spokesperson told ESPN that the school didn’t have any comment regarding Blackwell’s deposition. Blackwell said that Dantonio and Robertson had weekly meetings together while Robertson was a member of the football team. He was dismissed after the charges against him were filed.
Dantonio responds Friday
Dantonio said the day after Blackwell’s deposition was filed that Robertson had nothing to do with Blackwell’s contract not being renewed at the school.
“The fact that Mr. Blackwell’s contract was not renewed has nothing to do with Auston Robertson,” a statement from Dantonio Friday afternoon said. “Two years ago, I spoke at length about Auston Robertson when he was dismissed from the team in 2017. Rather than engage in a public argument with a former staffer, I refer you to those previous statements. Further, there have been multiple investigations into the program’s handling of sexual assaults, including Jones Day in 2017 and the NCAA in 2018, and they concluded that the program and myself committed no violations. With regard to Mr. Blackwell’s lawsuit, because the litigation is ongoing, I have no further comment on this matter and refer all questions to my counsel.”
Here’s Dantonio’s statement in full from 2017 after Robertson was dismissed from the team.
Mark Dantonio’s April 21, 2017 statement dismissing Auston Robertson from the MSU football program. https://t.co/EGpSw7Bg0P— Chris Solari (@chrissolari) September 20, 2019
Blackwell was suspended in February 2017
Blackwell was suspended over two years ago after the school said he interfered with a sexual assault investigation into multiple players. The school then said in May of 2017 that his contract wouldn’t be renewed. Then-Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis told Blackwell in a letter that his contract wasn’t being renewed because of “several allegations.”
An external investigation determined that Blackwell didn’t comply with school regulations regarding sexual misconduct. Not long after the investigation’s findings were released, third-degree criminal sexual conduct charges were filed against Donnie Corley, Josh King and Demetric Vance.
The external investigation cleared Dantonio of wrongdoing and said Dantonio followed school protocol and reported an allegation to the Title IX office as soon as he found out about it. According to Blackwell’s testimony, he said Dantonio reported an allegation when informed by Robertson. He added that he didn’t feel he had to “re-report” what he believed Dantonio reported.
Blackwell also said that he felt like he had become a scapegoat in the aftermath of the players’ sexual misconduct.
“I got blamed,” Blackwell said in his deposition. “It became Curtis Blackwell’s decision to bring Auston Robertson on campus, when we all know the head coach made the decision to bring him on. He overrode everyone else in order to bring him on campus.”
Blackwell’s attorneys filed the motion Thursday in an attempt to compel Dantonio to testify. In the filing, his attorneys say they want Dantonio to be deposed before depositions for Hollis and former Michigan State president Lou Anna K. Simon are done.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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