Michigan State University has a football history of folding when it counts. In recent years they seem to win early in the season and then raise losing to an art form when it really matters. Those days may be over starting this fall.
By unloading John L. Smith and hiring Mark Dantonio as their new head football coach, the Spartans have put themselves in a position to perform better than any time since the legendary Duffy Daugherty coached Michigan State to a combined 19-1-1 record in 1965 and 1966, winning back-to-back Big Ten and National Championships.
The reason is simple: Dantonio is a winner from a pedigree that screams success.
He does not have to talk about what he is going to do as Michigan State's new coach because he, unlike so many others, has already done a lot of significant winning in support roles under Nick Saban, Jim Tressel and Earle Bruce, all winners and outstanding football coaches.
To say Michigan State has been in the dumper since Duffy Daugherty left in 1972 is being kind. In 34 seasons, the Spartans have been barely above .500. They have won only 8 or more games just once in consecutive seasons and have had one Rose Bowl appearance which happened under Nick Saban with Mark Dantonio as his secondary coach. Dantonio spent 6 seasons at MSU in this role.
He also contributed to Michigan State's successful 1999 season when the Spartans went 10-2, won the Florida Citrus Bowl and were ranked No. 7 in the final polls.
Michigan State's secondary under Dantonio was regarded as one of the best in college football, ranking 10th in pass efficiency defense in 1998 and 7th in 2000. A half dozen Spartan defenders under Dantonio were NFL draft picks.
Now Dantonio returns as head coach and things are going to get a lot better in Spartan Stadium.
Dantonio spent 3 years as head coach at the University of Cincinnati where he became the first head coach in 23 years to pilot a team to a winning season in his initial campaign, capping the season with a convincing 32-14 win over Marshall in the PlainsCapital Fort Worth Bowl.
Only the legendary Sid Gillman had taken Cincinnati to a bowl game in his initial season as head coach.
Even this season the Cincinnati Bearcats upset then No. 7 Rutgers on Nov. 18, the highest ranked team Cincinnati has ever beaten.
Before moving on to Cincinnati, Dantonio served as defensive coordinator under Jim Tressel at Ohio State, assembling the defense that led the Buckeyes to the national title in 2002. Ohio State was 2nd nationally in scoring defense and 3rd in rushing defense during its perfect season.
In 2003, Dantonio's defense at Ohio State was 2nd nationally against the run, 10th in total defense and 16th in scoring defense.
He was a member of Earle Bruce's Ohio State staff in 1983 and 1984, helping the Buckeyes to the Fiesta Bowl and Rose Bowl.
Dantonio has spent the majority of his coaching career in Ohio where he also helped the Akron Zips to an 8-3 record and an appearance in the Division I-AA playoffs.
He then joined Jim Tressel's staff at Youngstown State and helped the Penguins make 3 Division I-AA playoffs during 5 seasons, and posted a perfect 11-0 regular season record in 1990 when he was the defensive coordinator.
When Tressel became Ohio State's coach Dantonio followed as his defensive coordinator.
Dantonio is clearly a winner, and I believe he will find some winning players and train them to excel. In business and in football there are really only two possible outcomes: results or excuses. Dantonio has made a career out of producing results.
I believe that Mark Dantonio is savvy enough to surround himself with more winners like himself, and together with his staff will lead the Michigan State Spartans out of the mud hole that they have been stuck in for far too long.
Let me make it clear that I am a Michigan State University graduate from the Class of 1966. I know that dates me, but it hardly affects my memory. I remember when Michigan State was arguably THE football team in the country during 1965 and 1966.
I am so happy that Dantonio is a Midwest boy born and bred. He has the strong Midwest ties to compete effectively against major magnets like Ohio State, Michigan and Notre Dame.
I was born and raised in Michigan and now reside on the West Coast in Washington State. Let me tell you that folks in Washington are different than those in the Midwest, not better or worse but different.
When I go to battle I want a Midwest boy in the foxhole with me. Welcome aboard, Mark Dantonio. I will dig the foxhole, you can throw in the trophies.
Copyright (c) 2007 Ed Bagley