Is Mark Dantonio the Most Underrated Coach in College Football?

Sean FryeFeatured ColumnistJanuary 1, 2014

Dec 7, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Michigan State Spartans coach Mark Dantonio celebrates defeating the Ohio State Buckeyes during the Big Ten Championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Michigan State defeats Ohio State 34-24.  Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

When you talk about the most successful coaches in the Big Ten right now, there's a few names that come to mind. 

Urban Meyer at Ohio State has only lost one game in his two years in Columbus. Bo Pelini has had plenty of success at Nebraska, a school that is wrapping up its third season in the conference. 

But there's only one name that is far and above the rest in the Big Ten. And that's Mark Dantonio

Yet, nobody seems to think that he's part of the upper echelon of college coaches. 

In seven seasons as the head coach of the Spartans, Dantonio has made a bowl game in each, including this year's Rose Bowl. He's won 11 or more games three times and he's in the midst of his best season. 

His 30 wins in the past three years surpass the likes of Bill Snyder, David Cutcliffe and Brian Kelly. Those guys have either won or been nominated for national head coach of the year honors.

Yet, Dantonio has only won the Big Ten Coach of the Year award twice, including this season. Dantonio isn't even in any serious discussions for any national awards this season. 

Since 2007—the year Dantonio took over at Michigan State—here's some of the head coaches that have won Big Ten Coach of the Year: Ron Zook (2007), Joe Paterno (2008), Kirk Ferentz (2009) and Brady Hoke (2011). 

Zook and Paterno have since been fired. Ferentz has won only 19 games in the past three seasons and Hoke has never beaten Dantonio. 

What's most shocking about Dantonio's reputation lies in his salary. According to USA Today, he ranks just 51st among FBS coaches with his $1.95 million total pay in 2013. That ranks lower than Mark Stoops at Kentucky, Jim Grobe at Wake Forest and Sonny Dykes at California. 

Dantonio has built a model of consistency and a powerhouse program at Michigan State. But nobody seems to give the Spartans credit. Michigan State didn't even crack the top 10 of the AP Poll this season until Week 15. 

It's time to recognize Dantonio as one of the best coaches in all of college football.