EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Mark Dantonio is back with the
Michigan State football program. This time, he's in charge and he
has much flashier jewelry.
Dantonio, an assistant with the program from 1995-00 and the
Cincinnati head coach the past three seasons, was hired Monday as
the Spartans' coach. At his introduction, he displayed the 2002
championship ring he won as Ohio State's defensive coordinator.
"I wear this championship ring very, very few times, but I wear
it for a reason," Dantonio said. "I wear it to symbolize what can
happen when you have the resources, when you have the players, and
most importantly when you have the commitment."
He succeeds John L. Smith, who was fired before completing his
fourth season in East Lansing. He finished with a 22-26 record.
Michigan State finished 4-8 this year and has missed out on a bowl
trip three straight seasons for the first time since the early 1980s.
Dantonio becomes the ninth Michigan State coach since Duffy
Daugherty left after the 1972 season. Michigan State is barely
above .500 since and has won eight or more games in consecutive
seasons just once, with one Rose Bowl appearance.
Dantonio inherits a team that has struggled on the field and in
recruiting battles with nearby powerhouses Michigan, Ohio State and
"If you have an opportunity to compete against the best, you
can become the best," Dantonio said. "You have the opportunity to
The Michigan State Board of Trustees on Monday unanimously
approved president Lou Anna Simon's recommendation to hire
Dantonio. The five-year contract guarantees him about $1.1 million
a year, on the lower end of the Big Ten pay scale. The contract
also has a $200,000 signing bonus and incentives.
The 50-year-old Dantonio had an 18-17 record at Cincinnati,
including a win over previously unbeaten Rutgers this month. The
Big East school is awaiting a bowl bid, but Dantonio wouldn't coach
that game. Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi was appointed
Cincinnati's interim head coach Monday.
Dantonio has a defensive coaching background and extensive
recruiting experience in the Midwest, two trouble spots for the
Spartans under Smith.
Dantonio spent six seasons as a Michigan State assistant under
Nick Saban and Bobby Williams before becoming Ohio State's
defensive coordinator under Jim Tressel.
Michigan State waited until Cincinnati finished its regular
season to interview Dantonio. That happened Saturday night with a
contingent including basketball coach Tom Izzo. Simon followed up
with a Sunday morning meeting, and they had a contract by Sunday night.
Dantonio received a warm welcome at Michigan State's athletics
offices, where many of the same people he knew from his stay in the
late 1990s still work.
"I think they did a great job of picking a great guy,"
linebacker Kaleb Thornhill said.
Other possible candidates included Miami Dolphins assistant
Charlie Baggett, Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Todd
Grantham, LSU defensive coordinator Bo Pelini, Central Michigan
coach Brian Kelly and Philadelphia Eagles assistant Pat Shurmur.
Dantonio is from Ohio and has spent much of his coaching career
in the Midwest. Smith came from Louisville and previously coached
mostly at schools in the western half of the country.
"He is a person who understands the landscape," Michigan State
trustee Joel Ferguson said.
Dantonio became the first coach at Cincinnati to have a winning
record in his first season. He had seven wins, including a victory
over Marshall in the Fort Worth Bowl. After taking a step back with
a 4-7 record in 2005 with an inexperienced team, Dantonio led
Cincinnati to another solid season this year.