In 2013, the Michigan State Spartans finally cleared the final hurdles under Mark Dantonio—winning the Big Ten championship and the Rose Bowl in one fell swoop.
On Tuesday, the athletic department rewarded those results by giving Dantonio a huge pay raise. He will now be making $3.64 million annually, up from his previous deal that paid him $1.9 million a year.
“Continuity has been and will continue to be an important ingredient for the sustained success of our football program,'' AD Mark Hollis said, in a statement from the school. "The increased compensation isn’t simply a reward for past performance but signifies our expectation for continued excellence."
Considering that Dantonio entered the season behind eight other Big Ten coaches, Michigan State needed to do something to show they valued their head coach and what he just did for the school. Yet, as he enters his eighth year as MSU's head coach, Dantonio remains undervalued.
Michigan St. head football coach Mark Dantonio’s annual compensation was increased to $3.64 million yesterday. That's fifth in the Big Ten.— Adam K. Moussa (@AKMoussa) February 26, 2014
One look at the list of coaches ahead of him on the pay scale in the Big Ten should give that away. Dantonio's annual salary trails the likes of Urban Meyer of Ohio State, Kirk Ferentz of Iowa, Brady Hoke at Michigan and Penn State's new head coach James Franklin.
Meyer's reputation and collection of two crystal football trophies give him the right to claim the top spot on the pay scale—especially considering he's the only one in the conference with a national title behind his name.
The rest of the group shows just how crazy the money game is in big-time college football, because none of them have accomplished what Dantonio has done in his time at the helm of the Spartans.
In the seven full seasons Dantonio has been in East Lansing, he's compiled a record of 64-29. Kirk Ferentz, the elder statesman of the Big Ten, has gone 53-36. The Spartans also have achieved a Big Ten championship, something Ferentz's Hawkeyes haven't done since 2004, when they shared the league crown.
As for Hoke vs. Dantonio, the head-to-head records speak for themselves. It's a 2-1 advantage to Dantonio in games against each other. Additionally, Dantonio has racked up a 31-10 record since Hoke's arrival in Ann Arbor, while Hoke is 26-13 during the same time frame.
In the case of James Franklin, a lot has to do with reputation, considering what was done at Vanderbilt and the cash that Penn State athletics have to spend.
That's where the rub is in making Dantonio paid like he should be based on his peers in the Big Ten—Michigan State doesn't have the budget available to it that Michigan, Ohio State or Penn State have.
Is Mark Dantonio Still Undervalued Versus His Peers?
According to a USA Today database of collegiate athletic-department finances, Ohio State (No. 2), Michigan (No. 3) and Penn state (No. 8) all ranked in the top 10 nationally. Iowa ranked ahead of the Spartans as well, coming in at No. 15, while MSU had a budget that ranked No. 17, according to the 2012 numbers.
More than any of that, Dantonio appeared to decide to forgo a bigger raise to help out his staff. According to ESPN.com's reporting, the assistant coaches staff is getting an additional $785,000 spent on them.
The largest chunk is going to defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, who is about to make a reported $904,583 this season. His pay raise will make him the highest-paid assistant coach in the Big Ten and ups the likelihood that the Big Ten will see its first $1 million assistant very soon.
While Dantonio may realize a good thing when he's got it with his assistant coaches, he's still not as valued as he should be according to what his peers are making.
He's certainly proven to be one of the best coaches the conference has. Perhaps it's just a matter of time before he gets paid like it, too.
*Andy Coppens is Bleacher Report's lead writer for Big Ten football. You can follow him on Twitter: @ andycoppens.