The success of any college football program ultimately begins with finding the right head coach. Those men who have won the most generally share an ability to lead, strategize and recruit better than their contemporaries, and they are remembered long after their time in charge is complete.
This week on the Big Ten blog, we're taking a look at the top five coaches over the years for each program. Some are more widely recognized than others, but all had a positive impact on the fortunes of their respective programs.
Now we turn to Michigan State:
1. Clarence "Biggie" Munn, 54-9-2 (1947-53): Munn is the man most responsible for bringing Michigan State football into national prominence. He led the Spartans to back-to-back undefeated seasons in 1951 and 1952, the latter of which included a national championship. The program competed as an independent in those years, but in large part because of his success, Michigan State was accepted into the Big Ten in 1953. Munn retired after winning the Rose Bowl in that inaugural Big Ten season, and as athletic director he chose the next man on this list to replace him ...
2. Duffy Daugherty, 109-69-5 (1954-72): Daugherty helped build upon the foundation that Munn established, winning the Rose Bowl in his second season at the helm. He took the program to its apex in 1965 and 1966, when the Spartans won back-to-back national titles (or at least a claim to them, as Michigan State lost the Rose Bowl after the '65 season and did not play in the postseason in '66 because of arcane Big Ten rules). He also was ahead of the curve on integration, as his teams in the mid-1960s welcomed black players from the South who were barred from SEC and other regional programs. The school's football complex is named in honor of Daugherty.
3. Mark Dantonio, 87-33 (2007-present): Dantonio is still building his résumé, but you could already make a case for him being the second-best coach in program history, at least. He does not have the national titles like Daugherty or Munn (who coached in a less competitive era where national championships were often disputed). But what he does have is consistency. Dantonio has won 11 games or more games in five of the past six seasons and has added Rose and Cotton bowl crowns, along with last year's College Football Playoff appearance. He also has claimed two Big Ten titles while establishing Michigan State as an annual national powerhouse. It's not a stretch to say Dantonio could be considered the school's greatest coach if he continues at his current pace.
4. George Perles, 68-67-4 (1983-94): Unlike Dantonio, Perles had a lot of ups and downs in his tenure, including the lamentable low of an academic scandal that led to his dismissal and the forfeiture of all games in 1994. But the highs included a pair of Big Ten titles and seven bowl games, plus a victory over USC in the 1988 Rose Bowl.
5. Chester Brewer, 58-23-7 (1903-10, 1917, 1919): The school was known as Michigan Agricultural College during Brewer's stint coaching the football team, and it competed in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association most of that time. Still, Brewer was a prolific winner, and he also coached the baseball and basketball teams in addition to serving as the Spartans' first full-time athletic director.