Mark Dantonio: Face of The Michigan State Spartans Football Program

Jim JonesContributor IIINovember 7, 2010

EVANSTON, IL - OCTOBER 23: Head coach Mark Dantonio of the Michigan State Spartans returned to the sidelines for a game against the Northwestern Wildcats at Ryan Field on October 23, 2010 in Evanston, Illinois. Michigan State defeated Northwestern 35-27. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images


Mark Dantonio has become the face of the Spartan Football program. In four short years, he has turned a perennially underachieving team into a stable and solid competitor.


His tough, gritty and unassuming demeanor is the embodiment of the Spartan Nation and Michigan State University. In a state filled to the brim with people of the blue-collar attitude, Dantonio has connected with his fan base and is well on his way to restoring a once-proud program to success.


When Mark Dantonio arrived in East Lansing he talked tough. Right from the beginning he made it clear that this program was going to change, and it was going to succeed. Rose Bowls, Big Ten titles, all of those were laid out on the table, and Coach Dantonio immediately began to build the foundations for success.


Dantonio is a smart man, and he held no illusions when he arrived on campus. He knew the path to success was not going to be easy, but he also believed that with effort and perseverance, the Spartans could succeed.


Michigan State has always had potential to be great. With nearly 50,000 students packing campus, millions of supporters, hundreds of thousands of alumni, great facilities, a strong history that includes six national championships, and the commitment of university and community leaders to build a national-class football program, Dantonio knew all the elements were there to build success.


Still, in spite of all of these resources Michigan State was in the midst of nearly 20 years of mediocrity. Even the moderate success with Nick Saban ended in heartbreak when he left to coach at LSU. Not since 1988 had Michigan State been to a major bowl and not since 2003 had Michigan State been to any bowl.


But Dantonio ground out seven wins with a team that had won only five the previous year and made it to a bowl game in his first season. The next year he would lead the Spartans to a 9-3 season and the Capital One Bowl, perhaps the most prestigious non-BCS bowl.


When Mike Hart dissed the Spartans after pulling out a huge comeback win in East Lansing, Dantonio responded that it was “just the beginning” and has responded with three straight wins (and counting) over “Big Brother” Michigan. Outsiders might have been riled by Dantonio's harsh comments about Mike Hart and his stature, but for the Spartan Nation, that moment was the defining moment of Coach's career.


He let the nation and our rivals know that the Spartans' time had come and a once-prestigious program was on the rise again.


Dantonio has been luring in talented players, snatching them from the jaws of Michigan, Ohio State, Alabama and other big programs. He has built and sold a family atmosphere that has parents and athletes alike excited about the possibility of donning the Green and White.


He has found talent that is overlooked and under-ranked, like Kirk Cousins and Le'veon Bell. He has lured top prospects like William Gholston and Lawrence Thomas, both five-star recruits. Further, Dantonio is slowly expanding the Michigan State recruiting pipelines into new and fertile recruiting grounds, such as Georgia and Maryland.


Recruiting is one of the most important aspects of building a football program and Dantonio has invested a lot of time and energy in convincing the best players to don the Green and White.


Dantonio has met adversity within the locker room and campus, and while certainly damage has been done, he has weathered the storm and kept the program focused. When Coach had a heart attack after a season-defining win over Notre Dame, he made sure the systems were in place for the team to keep winning.


Last year, he shouldered a heartbreaking losing season, but responded with the best Spartan team we have seen in decades. He has preached toughness, focus and effort, and his players have responded in kind.


Further, he has already declared his plans to stay in East Lansing for a long time to come, and if he remains true to his word, he has the potential to build something special at Michigan State. Mark Dantonio has become the face of the Spartan football nation, and there is not a better Coach in the country for the Spartans.


His demeanor, his style of play, his words and actions, all match lock and step with the Spartan Nation and its aspirations to be a football power once again.


Thanks Coach D.