The news is shocking. Puzzling. Bittersweet. Confusing.
Let’s just dive right into it.
Mark Dantonio has been cemented as a legendary football coach at MSU. Before stumbling the final two years of his career, he leaves behind this – a Rose Bowl, a College Football Playoff berth, three Big Ten titles, a Cotton Bowl victory, a winning record against Michigan and the most wins as a Spartan.
Alright, with that said…hooooo boy the timing on this one is something. Early February, a few weeks after checking in that major bonus. In the midst of the Curtis Blackwell legal ongoing. The day before Signing Day (a small day, so I’m not too hung up on that). Announcing this via a tweet instead of a press conference.
Something absolutely reeks out loud. Now, does that mean a bombshell is about to drop? Sanctions being handed down? It’s not a 100 percent thing, but it wouldn’t be shocking giving this timing and the way this was delivered.
The only hope that everything will be fine is that, really, Dantonio has never been media savvy and great at these sort of things. Him retiring via a tweet wouldn’t have been the most shocking thing in the world…had this not been in February in the midst of the Blackwell thing. But now here we are, and this is the reality — something just seems off about all of this. Hope I’m wrong. I’ve been wrong before.
Before we start talking who will coach here next, let’s just get some things out of the way to bring expectations to a level of reality:
-MSU is still captained by Bill Beekman, who I wouldn’t trust to hire a lightbulb changer for Spartan Stadium, let alone a head coach. What in Beekman’s history suggests we will nail this? Go ahead, humor me.
-It’s February. Signing Day is Wednesday. You think just going out and plucking your top guy will be that easy? To come to a place that has a team off back-to-back 7-6 records in a division that’s now run by Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan again? This isn’t the sexy job it could have been after the CFP berth. This is going to be a rebuilding project in a way, and a tough one at that.
Alright, here’s who won’t be coming to MSU: Matt Campbell and PJ Fleck. Guys, I hate to say it, this would be a lateral move for both of these guys at this point. I don’t want it to be true, but Minnesota building a solid program in the West is a whole lot better than cleaning up a mess in the stacked East. Iowa State is the equivalent of MSU right now – it wouldn’t make sense to come over here.
Yeah, sure, I could see Luke Fickell taking over. I guess. But again, this is so late in the offseason. The transfer portal has been shaking out. Recruiting for next year is over. Piecing together your own coaching staff is a yeoman’s task.
In closing, Mark Dantonio has given me and all of us some of our finest memories. Memories that will never, ever, ever be taken away from any of us.
Jeremy Langford running through the end zone that led to Pasadena. LJ Scott reaching his way to a College Football Playoff berth.
Michael Geiger wind-milling his way away from an Ohio State team that had 12 Buckeyes drafted the following year.
Rocket. Mouse Trap. Little Giants. Hey Diddle Diddle Mike Sadler Down the Middle.
Rangers Mission 4:10 that sent Jalen Watts-Jackson into MSU lore during one of Dantonio’s many wins over Michigan.
The Penn State walk-off. The other Penn State walk-off.
And every moment at a tailgate before a big game. A road trip with you family or friends to chase the greatness. A watch party to see the powerful Spartans in a big road game. Any other memory that’s happened around MSU football from 2007-today.
Those moments will last forever. But now, with the timing and delivery of this news, we just get to hope Mark Dantonio’s legacy will also be able to last as well. We’ll see.