Michigan State's Mark Dantonio has become one of college football's elite coaches almost overnight. A 24-20 win over David Shaw's Stanford program in the Rose Bowl on Wednesday solidifies his standing among the best in college football.
He has turned into the Spartans' best coach since 1953—even better than Nick Saban, Duffy Daugherty and Denny Stolz when they were in East Lansing.
And he's done it by building his team into a legitimate national title contender. The only issue with an elite status is that Texas could come calling, and Michigan State needs to make sure he's locked up for years.
There's a group of talented coaches out there known as college football's elite. Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, Charlie Strong, David Shaw, Jimbo Fisher and now Mark Dantonio are just a half-dozen members in this elite group.
These coaches have been built up their teams and turned them into conference champions and national title contenders. Dantonio has done just that in East Lansing. In fact, he's taken a team that was 4-8 the year before he took over and turned it into one that could have been in the national title game in 2013.
But this all started when he took over the job in 2007. Since then, Michigan State has been in a bowl every single year. After a mediocre first three years under Dantonio when the Spartans went 7-6, 9-4 and 6-7 and lost in bowl games each year, they took a massive leap into a regular conference title contender.
Over the past four seasons, the Spartans have won 11 games or more three times. They have won two conference titles and their division within the conference once. On top of that, they've won three of their past four bowl games.
Great coaches take mediocre teams and build them into squads that are in the national title conversation. With Michigan State at 13-1 and winning the Big Ten Conference in 2013, it would have been a primary target if Florida State had lost to Duke in the ACC title game. Michigan State would have also been a prime candidate for the new College Football Playoff that is coming in 2014.
Dantonio's Spartans aren't mediocre anymore. They aren't even close. And that's a testament to their head coach. A head coach who led them to their first Rose Bowl berth—and victory—since 1988. This Rose Bowl win is just an exclamation point to the job that Dantonio has done—an elite one.
Could Texas come calling?
Speaking of mediocre programs that need some coaching help, Texas is in the middle of a long coaching search. While it would be a long shot for the Longhorns to offer the job to Dantonio, he would be a great fit for the role of Mack Brown's successor.
Dantonio understands how to build a defense that can compete with anyone and slow down even the best offenses. With Texas' resources, it could easily pay for any sort of buyout that would be in Dantonio's new contract, according to an ESPN report.
Texas should try to sign Dantonio to a contract before Michigan State can extend him. Unfortunately, the Longhorns won't have the same foresight to hire a defensive-minded head coach from Michigan State whom LSU had back in 2000. That time, the coach was Nick Saban.
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, College Football, NFL and NFL draft. He also runs DraftFalcons.com.
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