After the news broke that head coach Mark Dantonio decided to retire, he mentioned people would run, actually crawl to East Lansing to coach the Michigan State football team. It’s been precisely the opposite.
Sure, Mark Dantonio brought the Spartans back to relevancy during his stay in East Lansing. Still, last week he dropped a bomb on the program when he decided to abruptly walk away from the Michigan State football team just three weeks after depositing a hefty $4.3 million bonus into his bank account.
He’s left the program he turned around how he inherited it, broken. Is the Michigan State football program headed back to the dark, dreary days of John L. Smith? At this point, the program doesn’t have a capable quarterback to replace graduating Brian Lewerke. Other than Elijah Collins, there isn’t another playmaking running MSU can deploy to run the rock. Overall it’s a very limited offense operating behind a below-average offensive line.
It’s a defense that will need to be utterly re-tooled after losing a plethora of critical names. Starters Kenny Willekes, Mike Panasiuk, Raequan Williams, Tyriq Thompson, and Joe Bachie are all out the door.
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An entering coach would start on the job well behind the eight-ball in the way of recruiting. The accepting coach will have already recruited plenty of talent for their own school. At the same time, Mark Dantonio has been in cruise control, understanding he’d be stepping away shortly after accepting his bonus.
We focus on the bonus so much because, like any of us would do, he only hung around long enough to accept that money. Why wouldn’t he help the program out and have that money prorated and paid out the day after Michigan State football’s bowl game and then call it a career? It would have significantly improved the school’s chances of landing Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell or perhaps have a legitimate run at Minnesota’s P.J. Fleck.
Instead, Fickell decided to remain with the Bearcats, a much lower profile school, stating he and his wife are concerned with the campus culture in East Lansing. Can we blame them? Fleck is a recruiting genius, he’s building a tremendous program in Minnesota, he’s not interested in downgrading to MSU. He’s a year away from potentially landing a high profile job elsewhere.
The Spartans have shown interest in Pitt’s Pat Narduzzi, along with Mel Tucker from Colorado. The interest wasn’t mutual. Imagine that; a head coach at Colorado doesn’t want to join a Big Ten team.
It doesn’t bode well for the Spartans at this point, it’s embarrassing.
The Spartans even kicked the tires on Dearborn native Robert Saleh. The San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator will have plenty of options to become an NFL head coach shortly. He, along with the other candidates mentioned, are not prepared to risk a potential six-win season with MSU hampering their chances to land a better job as soon as next year.
The Spartans may have to settle with Mike Tressel serving as the teams interim head coach for a season. It’s not an ideal situation, especially if the Spartans only muster a five or six-win season next year. It certainly won’t help attract a big name to the school.
Other names to keep an eye on are former Florida Gators head coach, and current Central Michigan head coach Jim McElwain. He’s undoubtedly chomping at the bit to get another opportunity at a big-name school.
If Michigan State football could somehow lure a former alumn in Pat Shurmur from his new position as the Denver Broncos offensive coordinator, it would be a slam dunk at this point. That is very unlikely, but one can hope.