Jul. 09, 2017
Mark Dantonio Is NOT On Any Hot Seat
About a week ago, veteran college football writer Phil Steele said Mark Dantonio is on the hot seat at Michigan State. A surprise by many that he was on the list. Here is his explanation.
"Coming off a playoff berth and five double-digit-win seasons the previous six years, Dantonio rated about a zero on my hot seat list last season. Michigan State stumbled to 3-9 last year, and this offseason, multiple Spartans players have been charged with sexual assault. His inclusion on this list will surprise many, but keep an eye on what happens during 2017, and don’t be surprised if there’s a change at the end of the year."-Phil Steele
With all due respect to Steele but I disagree wholeheartedly on his assessment of Dantonio's "future" at Michigan State. There are numerous reasons why Dantonio is still safe at East Lansing, including one that Steele even said was a problem for Dantonio.
So let's break down why Dantonio's job is safe even after a 3-9 record in East Lansing.
1. 2013-2015: Dantonio's Spartans in this tenure went 36-5, including two Big Ten Championships, 2 wins over Ohio State, and two New Year's Six victories. 3 of the 5 losses suffered were to 2 teams who would win the national championship (Ohio State, Alabama) and a national championship runner-up (Oregon). To put that in perspective, in the same run, only Alabama (37-5), Florida State (39-3), Clemson (37-4), and Ohio State (38-4) had better runs. And by the way, Alabama, Florida State, and Ohio State won national championships in that span while Clemson had a runner-up to their credit.
2. 2016 made up for 2015. The funny part about the 2013-2015 run was Michigan State's worst year was the year when they made the playoff. If you looked at 2013, while the offense had issues early, the defense was the tops in the nation, smashing everybody they saw. Two phantom pass interference calls at Notre Dame probably kept Michigan State from the National Championship that year. In 2014, the offense took hold while the defense took a step back but still was a top 5 program when all was said & done. But 2015 was problematic. The offense had inconsistencies at quarterback with Connor Cook. The defense wasn't as strong as 2013 though better than 2014 but had issues of their own such as injury and inconsistency. And the kicking game was problematic as well. What saved Michigan State was the turnover margin and a few bounces go their way, such as the punt "return" with Michigan, Urban Meyer going completely conservative, Rutgers not managing time, etc. So 2016 was more of the devil coming to collect his due for whoever sold their soul.
3. Michigan State's football program has endured one of the most successful runs since the Clarence Munn Era back in the 40's and 50's. Only Munn posted a higher winning percentage over Dantonio at Michigan State in really modern times. Coming off a playoff berth and five double-digit-win seasons the previous six years, Dantonio rated about a zero on my hot seat list last season. Michigan State stumbled to 3-9 last year, and this off-season, multiple Spartans players have been charged with sexual assault. His inclusion on this list will surprise many, but keep an eye on what happens during 2017, and don’t be surprised if there’s a change at the end of the year. Munn also hoisted a national championship in this run. But everybody else, including Duffy Daugherty, who won 2 national championships, had up and down years in East Lansing. And that also includes Nick Saban's tenure at East Lansing.
4. The pre-Dantonio Michigan State Spartans were at or near the bottom of the Big Ten from 2000-2007. Saban did have a great year in his final year at East Lansing in 1999 before leaving for LSU. In that time, the Spartans faithful had to deal with Bobby Williams, who sent the team into a train-wreck mode and then John L Smith, who pretty much put Michigan State into "joke" mode in East Lansing from 2003-2006. They weren't recruiting well. They constantly lost heart-breakers or got blown out by their rivals of Michigan, Notre Dame, and Ohio State. And they were never taken serious for a Big Ten Championship.
5. Michigan State has won despite having to deal being the "2nd school" in Michigan. Even when the Wolverines have been down from 2007-2014, they always had the better recruits choosing Ann Arbor over East Lansing. So what Dantonio has done was go into Ohio and take recruits that were chosen over Ohio State. So the reality is he is getting whatever the Wolverines and Buckeyes DON'T want. And he's still winning with them.
6. Everybody is bound for a hiccup year...or two. Unless you're Alabama, Florida State, or Ohio State where you can recruit 4 or 5-star athletes year in and year out, most schools, including Michigan State will have a down year or two where they lose that great group of seniors and whatnot. Michigan State had that issue last year and lost a lot of leadership from the 2015 squad while nobody really stepped up. This year only 5 returning starters on both sides and it is a vastly young group. A talented group, but still young. So a 6-6 or a 7-5 record is progress with another group that will be there for a while.
7. Dantonio and Michigan State handled the case to the best of his ability. Steele wrote about how the sexual assault case with Donnie Corley, Josh King, and Demetric Vance and probably implying it is a black eye on Dantonio. Well, yes, it does. But unlike what Art Briles did at Baylor, Dantonio received word of it quickly immediately kicked the 3 players off the team (according to the reports). Corley and King were supposed to play key roles for Michigan State this year and King was the top recruit heading into 2016. So Dantonio was cleared of any wrongdoing as he took all steps necessary. I use quotes for the word "correctly" because it is not necessarily a great way of handling it. But Dantonio did what was the best thing for him and the program. Had it been mishandled, then I would probably agree with Steele. Had it been another Baylor, then we have another head coach in East Lansing as we speak.
Whatever the case may be in 2017 unless it really hits the fan (i.e. 1-11), Dantonio's job is as safe as possible. Steele said Dantonio's hot seat rating was a 0 heading into 2016 before all of it hit the fan, but I have to say if I had a "rating" it would still be zero. Even if the Spartans struggle in 2017, it shouldn't be as worse as last year. I think they will make the necessary adjustments to get back on track and a 7-5 or even an 8-4 record is feasible. Will they compete with Michigan and Ohio State? Perhaps not, but even the 3-9 Spartans last year fought both of them tough. But to say Dantonio is on the hot seat is very premature.
-Fan in the Obstructed Seat