EAST LANSING — In recent years, Mark Dantonio has placed an emphasis on Michigan State’s spring game attendance.
Two years ago, he called for 50,000 fans to attend the event, calling that target “the next step in our program.” Last year, when MSU did top 50,000, he later called that number a testament to the school’s senior class.
Michigan State’s 2017 spring game currently is scheduled for April 1, two weeks from Saturday.
There’s a possibility the number of fans in the Spartan Stadium bleachers that day will be zero.
Michigan State resumes its spring practices on Tuesday, following a week off for spring break, and does so with its media blackout ongoing.
Since the team began spring practices Feb. 25, the program has held no media access, allowed no coach or player interviews and released almost no photos or videos, as a result of an ongoing sexual assault investigation that has led to the suspension of three players and a staff member.
That blackout has no end in sight, raising questions about the program’s willingness to go in front of the public and a television audience in a few weeks time, should the investigation still be ongoing.
A program spokesperson said on Monday that the spring game is still scheduled for 3 p.m. on April 1 at Spartan Stadium. He declined to speculate on what would happen if the investigation hadn’t wrapped up by then.
Yet in his only public statement during the investigation, Dantonio indicated that he doesn’t plan to answer any questions until the investigation has completed.
“When the time is appropriate, I will be able to answer questions regarding our program and discuss our team,” Dantonio said on Feb. 28. “At this point in time, we have to respect the process of the investigations for everyone involved.”
Since the three suspended players haven’t been named, Michigan State also could be reticent to put its full team on display and allow fans and media to see who is participating, possibly identifying the players suspended and under investigation.
The situation is likely to change if the criminal investigation were to wrap up in the next 20 days and the Ingham County Prosecutor were to make a decision regarding charges.
But authorities have declined to offer any sort of timeline for that happening. The only hint was on Feb. 22, when MSU Police Chief Jim Dunlap told ESPN that he didn’t expect the investigation to be a “short-term turnaround.”
Karen Truszkowski, a lawyer representing the accuser, confirmed last week that the alleged incident occurred on Jan. 16 at University Village apartments on campus, and was reported to police the next day. That means the investigation is now approaching the two-month mark.
She said she’s been given no further information about the status of the investigation.
The police investigation is one of three investigations currently ongoing. The school also has launched a Title IX investigation and hired a private law firm to conduct an investigation into the football program.
Days after the investigations were announced Feb. 9, the school confirmed that football staffer Curtis Blackwell has been suspended with pay from his duties.
After a week off for spring break, Michigan State is scheduled to hold its fifth spring practice on Tuesday.