Michigan State's Mark Dantonio addresses Spartans off-field issues

CHICAGO -- Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said the program's recent struggles on and off the field have taken a toll, but he remains encouraged, he said, by players showing greater accountability this summer.

In June, three Spartans players -- Josh King, Donnie Corley and Demetric Vance -- were charged with criminal sexual assault stemming from an incident at an off-campus apartment in January. Another player, Auston Robertson, was charged with criminal sexual assault following an April incident. All four players were dismissed from the program. MSU also cut ties with football staff member Curtis Blackwell after police found he had interfered with the criminal investigation that led to the charges against King, Corley and Vance.

The off-field issues followed by far Michigan State's worst season under Dantonio, as the team went 3-9 and won just one Big Ten game.

"This past year, in its entirely, has impacted not just my life but every one of our lives," Dantonio told ESPN.com at Big Ten media days. "Hopefully, it's made us more considerate and more on point. Every level of turmoil you have in your life should create growth if you use it as growth, and that's what we will choose always to do."

Dantonio has attended more summer workouts than any offseason during his Michigan State tenure and said his players are showing an urgency to improve the program's image. Despite only nine seniors on the 2017 team, Dantonio is confident in the team's leadership.

He noted that the January incident is not part of a pattern but knows it negatively impacts the view of his program.

"We learn from our mistakes now, we learn from this, we understand that we have to make good decisions and we have to hold ourselves accountable, especially away from football," he said. "Some of it I can control and some of it, quite honestly, I can't. They have to control it.

"Our players understand what they need to do and understand that we're up against it ... coming off a 3-9 year and we had an incident."

In June, Dantonio and athletic director Mark Hollis received a vote of confidence from the school's board of trustees, hours before Ingham County prosecutors announced charges against King, Corley and Vance.

Asked to gauge the support he receives on campus, Dantonio said, "You've got to ask that question to other people, but I would say very, very good."

"On a scale of one to 10, I would say eight or nine," he continued. "I feel very supported by our Spartan fans everywhere I go, and I feel the same from our administration. We've won 90 games here in 10 years. What happened last year was not the norm. We've not had issues, we've not had problems, we've graduated 85 percent of our players, counting the ones that have gone [to the NFL early]. We've won three championships and been in the Big Ten championship game three times, winning two of them. Everything we've wanted to accomplish has happened.

"We took a step back last year. The most important thing we do is put our foot in the ground and drive forward."

Dantonio, entering his 11th season at Michigan State, said he thinks the Spartans have the ingredients to re-establish themselves in the Big Ten, where they flourished from 2013 to 2015, going 36-5 with three top-six finishes. He said the team's adversity has made it easier to motivate players entering the 2017 season.

"Last year, what were you going to say? The goal was to go back-to-back," he said. "That's the best thing I could say. I couldn't sit there and say, well, we might not have the experience at quarterback, so we only want to win eight games. The reality is we lost some very good players.

"We've had an outstanding summer in terms of preparation and accountability. So there's a sense of urgency, a sense of, 'This is what has to get done.'"