Former Michigan State staffer Curtis Blackwell said under oath that three football team staffers warned head coach Mark Dantonio about serious potential issues with four-star recruit Auston Robertson before the program signed him in 2016, according to multiple reports. In 2017, Robertson was charged with third-degree criminal sexual conduct after a woman said he sexually assaulted her. He eventually pleaded guilty to assault with intent to commit criminal sexual penetration, and is currently serving his sentence in a state prison.
Blackwell’s account came during a deposition, which recently was made public in a court filing, according to Tony Paul of the Detroit News. Paul singled out this moment of the 6.5-hour deposition to show how Dantonio’s staff felt before Robertson’s signing was approved.
“Ron Burton looked at me,” Blackwell said in his deposition, given under oath. “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.”?
In addition to Burton—Michigan State’s defensive tackles coach and former defensive line coach—Blackwell and current quarterbacks coach and former offensive coordinator Dave Warner also took issue with Robertson as a potential signing in an on-campus meeting after the 2015 season, according to Blackwell’s deposition.
Dantonio, however, apparently wanted Robertson as a “pet project,” according to Blackwell, as the coach wanted to bolster his depleted defense line. In order to make sure his new recruit kept his nose clean on campus, the coach decided to schedule meetings with Robertson every Monday, per the News report. One of those meetings eventually resulted in three of Robertson’s teammates getting kicked off the team, as the player blew the whistle on the party that led to Donnie Corley, Josh King, and Demetric Vance being charged with sexual assault—they eventually pleaded down to seducing an unmarried woman.
(It’s worth noting that this deposition came from Blackwell filing a lawsuit against Michigan State, in which the former staffer says he was let go so university leaders could look like they were getting tough on sexual assault amid the Larry Nassar scandal. Police accused Blackwell of interfering with the Corley-King-Vance investigation, but the former staffer says that was a result of cops misinterpreting his attempt to mentor the students. Police did not charge him with a crime.)
Shortly after Robertson was dismissed from Michigan State’s football team, Dantonio was forced to explain his decision to recruit the player to reporters, of which he said the following: “Obviously, we took a risk. ... We vetted the young man.” But, according to Blackwell’s words, there appears to be no reason to believe that the Spartans coach had an understanding of what either of those sentences actually meant.