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Tom Izzo Gives Thoughts On MSU Football Following Mel Tucker's Dismissal
By Matthew Lounsberry,
As the most well-known public face of Michigan State University, it was only a matter of time before Tom Izzo was asked for his thoughts surrounding the dismissal of head football coach Mel Tucker amidst sexual harassment allegations.
That day came this Monday, when MSU's men's basketball coach addressed the media ahead of the Spartans' first practice of the 2023-24 season.
"I feel for those players," Izzo said of the football team. "I feel for the staff over there that it's been dealt a tough hand."
Izzo said he has not been asked to speak to the football team, noting the football coaches are suited to handle that. He did say that he's had conversations with the coaches, however.
"My message to everybody is, 'Stay the course...Grasp arms, stick together'. Adversity is what you learn from," Izzo said. "I would tell them all to stick together, fight the fight, let's grow and get better...Believe in yourself, believe in your teammates. I think that's a big thing right now. Remember, players play the game."
The basketball coach also expressed support for acting head coach Harlon Barnett and athletic director Alan Haller.
"I'm going to be a full supporter of Harlon and Alan, and we're just going to just do what we do," Izzo said. "We'll fight through this and I think there will be a lot of positive things that happen."
It's been well-documented how much Izzo loves football. On Monday, he said it was still his favorite sport, and that was unlikely to change in his lifetime. Izzo said his support of the football program will not waver in the slightest amidst the current struggles.
"Adversity makes all of us stronger," he said. "What will happen, you probably know more than I do. What I know is I'm supporting that football team...I will not miss a game that I can't miss. If I can go on the road with them, I'm going on the road."
Izzo was complimentary of Michigan State's fanbase, which has continued to fill Spartan Stadium and the surrounding areas on football game days.
"I rode around the tailgates the last three weeks. I'm really proud of our fans for— you know, we've been through a lot, but we've been through a lot in the past too. Spartans are resilient," he said.
"I love the pre-game stuff here. As I went around, I enjoyed people. I think we're rallying behind [the program], and for that I thank all the fans out there. And I thank the staff and the players over there for hanging in there."
As far as what he saw on the field against Maryland, Izzo said he saw some positive things, but noted the turnovers cost Michigan State a chance to win. Turnovers are often a point of conversation for Izzo during basketball season as well.
"There were some encouraging things Saturday," he said. "I saw some promise in the last game. I mean, you can't turn the ball over. That's in football, basketball, it doesn't matter which sport you're in — you can't turn the ball over. We did, and we just got to keep moving forward."
Michigan State has often been viewed as a "basketball school", and that makes sense given the success the Spartans have experienced on the hardwood. Still, Izzo noted the importance of getting the football program back on track, and also acknowledged the success of other MSU athletic programs.
"I think you all know what I believe, that to have a successful athletic department you need a successful football team," Izzo said.
"But, in saying that, I went to the soccer game the other night — we beat Indiana. I watched our volleyball team beat Michigan. I've watched the growth of our wrestling program, our women's soccer team is back in the Top 25."
Izzo was also highly complimentary of Michigan State hockey coach Adam Nightingale, who has the Spartans ranked No. 9 in the preseason United States College Hockey Organization rankings. MSU is also third in the Big Ten's preseason poll, the highest the Spartans have been ranked to start the year since the 2015-16 season.
"If you read anything about hockey, I like looking over at [Nightingale's] office, because there's heat coming out of it," Izzo said. "The guy's done a fantastic job and he's doing a fantastic job."