Former Michigan State recruiting director Curtis Blackwell files new lawsuit alleging football violations

Former Michigan State recruiting director Curtis Blackwell filed a new lawsuit in state court this week alleging more recruiting violations and wrongdoing committed by the football program under former coach Mark Dantonio.

Blackwell says in the lawsuit that the Spartans illegally and secretly taped the practices of an opposing team. Blackwell also said Dantonio required him to do things that violated NCAA rules, including visiting recruits' homes, soliciting improper benefits for family members of recruits and tampering by contacting players enrolled at other NCAA schools to recruit them. In the lawsuit, Blackwell said his objections to these actions were part of the reason that his contract with Michigan State was not renewed in May 2017.

Blackwell worked for Michigan State's football program from 2013 through 2017, leading its recruiting efforts during an unprecedented run of success. He was arrested on suspicion of obstructing a police investigation in 2017 after he spoke to police officers about a sexual assault claim made against three freshmen who were then on the football team. He was not charged with a crime. A report by Jones Day -- a law firm hired by Michigan State to review the athletic department's handling of that sexual assault claim -- found that Blackwell was the only university employee who acted inappropriately. Blackwell's new lawsuit disputes the validity of that report and says it ignored mistakes made by Dantonio and others at the university during the same timeframe.

Blackwell claims in a federal lawsuit filed in 2018 as well as the new state complaint filed this week that he was scapegoated by the university, which was concurrently dealing with the fallout from the Larry Nassar sexual assault scandal. Blackwell's new lawsuit claims he was discriminated against because of his race, and asks that Dantonio be held accountable for the "intentional infliction of emotional distress."

Blackwell's attorney, Thomas Warnicke, said they filed a new lawsuit in state court because the federal judge would not allow them to amend his original suit to include new claims.

Dantonio, who retired in February, has denied under oath and during press conferences that he violated any NCAA rules. Dantonio said in 2018 that Blackwell's contract was not renewed due to "philosophical differences."

Blackwell claimed in his federal lawsuit that he accompanied Dantonio and other coaches on a recruiting visit to the home of former five-star prospect Daelin Hayes. His attorneys later filed a photo of that visit and an affidavit from Hayes' mother saying Blackwell was telling the truth.

Blackwell also claimed that Dantonio ignored warning signs from his assistant coaches about highly touted prospect Auston Robertson before offering him a scholarship. Robertson was removed from his high school after he was accused of inappropriately grabbing a female classmate. According to Blackwell, Dantonio was aware that Robertson had displayed a pattern of sexually violent behavior as a teenager. Robertson was charged with raping a fellow student less than a year after arriving in East Lansing and is currently serving up to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to a lesser charge.

The state lawsuit says that former university president Lou Anna Simon and former athletic director Mark Hollis failed to hold Dantonio accountable despite knowing that he "had potentially violated the civil rights of the female students on the MSU campus, by intentionally concealing Mr. Robertson's criminal history."

Current athletic director Bill Beekman called Blackwell's claims "patently false" during a press conference announcing Dantonio's retirement, which came one day after Blackwell filed a motion in the lawsuit. Blackwell also included Beekman as a defendant for defamation in the new lawsuit.

The new lawsuit also claims that Dantonio may have committed a crime in another state by "making (or directing his staff members to make and distribute) an audio or video recording of another person (i.e. a competing football team's practices) without consent and with the intent to invade their privacy."

Warnicke declined to say in which state the potential crime occurred or add more details to that claim.

Michigan State did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the new lawsuit.