Izzo affection pours out on the Web

We love Izzo.

A simple message.

But one that caught fire over the past week in the Michigan State community as Tom Izzo debated leaving and ultimately decided to stay in East Lansing instead of heading to Cleveland to coach the NBA's Cavaliers.

And it all started on the Web.

This past Thursday, Camron Gnass, owner of the Lansing-based advertising firm Traction and Michigan State fan, bought the domain name "We Love Izzo."

"I bought keepizzo.com, as well," said Gnass in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon. "But I thought the message of pressuring him to stay wasn't fair and is pretty dismissive. So instead of pressuring him, I thought, 'Let's just create a platform where people can share what it is they love about him.'"

And share they did.

In 48 hours, more than 4,000 messages of support were posted from places as far away as Hawaii and China, Gnass said. He also said the site had more than 15,000 visitors in a 12-hour span Sunday, and it now has about 5,000 messages in total.

"When I was in eighth grade you signed a basketball for me before I had surgery with a get-well message," wrote Grant from Los Angeles as Izzo's decision hung in the balance. "That basketball is still on my bookshelf and is my most prized possession. I can't imagine anyone else coaching your Spartans. You are my hero and I pray that you will stay at Michigan State."

Added Rick Mansberger from Haslett, Mich., after Izzo announced he'd be back with the Spartans: "[Tuesday] was a great day for MSU. My son Cody got his acceptance letter from MSU and Coach Izzo accepted the love and his destiny to follow in the steps of John Wooden to continue to create a legacy in this era of MSU college basketball. Coach Izzo did it all with class and no one can ever dispute that!"

Beyond the website, "We Love Izzo" signs were also scattered around the Lansing community. Signs were posted in areas that Izzo would drive by, including the route from his home to the Breslin Center.

"My staff came in on a Saturday and got work done [on the site]," Gnass said. "The sign company came together and worked Saturday night and early Sunday morning. Somebody else coordinated getting people together to assemble the signs and get them out in yards. It was just this massive collective effort [of people asking] 'How can I help?' And it just spread from that same core function of 'How do we just let him know simply that we appreciate who he is for us?'."

While Gnass has heard from people in Izzo's camp that the coach saw the signs, he takes zero credit for Izzo's deciding to come back.

"The brilliance was just in the simplicity of it and the ability of other people to latch on and share as well," he said.

Adams Outdoor, which owns digital billboard signage in the Lansing area, also put up the "We Love Izzo" message on a few of their billboards for free, Gnass said.

Another local company, Skyline Outdoor, affixed the "We Love Izzo" artwork to a mobile billboard, and Izzo well-wishers signed it for Izzo on Thursday in downtown Lansing, turning it into a huge thank-you card.

"We Love Izzo" wasn't the only online groundswell of support for Izzo. A Facebook group entitled "Keep Tom Izzo at MSU!" had more than 18,500 members at the time this story was published.

"I appreciate all the support I got from the community, and it was embarrassing, I got to tell ya," said an emotional Izzo at his news conference Tuesday evening. "But it was greatly appreciated."

Ryan Corazza is a freelance writer and Web designer based in Chicago.