Mark Dantonio Gives Spartan Nation, And Later Himself, a Heart Attack

Ryan C. ZerfasContributor IIISeptember 22, 2010

Mark Dantonio, going into his fourth year, has been the perfect brand ambassador for the Michigan State Spartans.
Mark Dantonio, going into his fourth year, has been the perfect brand ambassador for the Michigan State Spartans.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Don’t let the headline fool you—Mark Dantonio heart attack references are already tired, unoriginal, and uninspired.

I grimace at the thought of every nail-biting Spartan game from here on out being laced with clever color commentary such as “they better get this first down, Dantonio’s health depends on it…” or haters from that Indian corn and blue school comparing the “riotous streets of East Lansing to ‘Dantonio’s clogged arteries!’”

Just stop. Stop now.

With that said, I don’t think even the most venomous U of M fan would wish harm to coach D. Let our collective thoughts and prayers go out to Mark Dantonio and his family.

Look what Dantonio has done for the Spartan program?

A 5-2 record against Michigan and Notre Dame, including consecutive victories against Rich Rodriguez. Three straight big-time bowl game bids. Respect amongst coaches and fans alike across the nation restored, and recruits are pouring in via chariot convoys.

But most noteworthy, something that doesn’t always show up in the stats—fielding a team that always plays hard, never gives up, and never slap themselves during press conferences. And that’s something Spartan Nation can truly be proud of.

One of the biggest misconceptions about Dantonio is that he’s conservative with his play calling. And to be fair, we’re talking about a coach that let Javon Ringer carry the football 390 times (30 per game) in 2008. George Perles and Lorenzo White thought they should’ve mixed it up.


To the untrained eye a “trick play” from Dantonio is when he calls a reverse.

Much like his mentor the Sweatervest (Jim Tressel), his stoic, steady handed, calm yet firm demeanor is deceptive. Dantonio has a penchant for trick plays.

I know it doesn’t always work, but off the top of my head I can’t think of a failed roll of the dice. That is saying something with the “do or die” nature of the call.    

However, I CAN think of myriad times he’s flipped the script on opposing coaches with illusionist tactics:

*Fake punts in 2007 against Purdue, Penn State, and again in the 2010 Alamo Bowl against Texas Tech

*The Ol’ Fumblerooski against Michigan and Notre Dame in 2007

*Hook and laterals against Notre Dame and Iowa in 2009

*WR Keshawn Martin throwing TD passes to Blair White in the Alamo Bowl

*A reverse in which Martin threw a pass to QB Brian Hoyer


Anyone else notice that ND was on this list a couple times?


One would think new ND head coach Brian Kelly would’ve seen it coming, but then again he was obtuse enough to go for a 4th down conversion inside his own territory with only minutes left in a tied football game. Domers’ should be furious at the audacity!

That moment only gets swept under the rug, because the defense stepped up after Kelly handed the ball, and a chance to pin the Spartans deep in their own territory, late in the game over.  

Speaking of swept under the rug, let’s not forget about the remaining nine football games and perspective bowl game on the schedule.

Some might say the bottom line is the Spartans are 3-0 and cruising into the Big 10 season with a favorable schedule sans No. 2 Ohio State. I’m certainly happy about that, but there is a great deal of football to be played, and this team hasn’t ACTUALLY been impressive to date.

For everything that’s looked sharp there is a great deal to be concerned about. Quarterback Kirk Cousins looks flustered in the pocket, the secondary is making any ‘skin chucker look like Dan LeFevour, and a very talented receiving core (including Tight Ends) needs to cut the pre-game Aveeno ritual.  

Thrilling victories aside, it took theatrics to beat a lackluster Notre Dame team. Florida Atlantic had a look, they didn’t have any right having, in the second half at Ford Field. And Western Michigan didn’t feel like the MAC clunker they are against the Spartans.

Make no mistake about it, there is much work to be done, and losing the man that pulled Spartan Nation out of the gutter isn’t going to make it any easier. So don’t forget where you came from, how far you’ve come, and the mission at hand Spartans.

The competition will be stiffer and the tasks more challenging from here, but we’ll always have the time Brian Kelly couldn’t read Mark Dantonio’s poker face, and Notre Dame fans across the country flipped over their Oreo’s and screamed “pey dat myen his meney!” (think John Malkovich in Rounders)

Get well coach D, East Lansing needs you—this is only an early chapter of your legend.