Hey Hondo! Answering Your Michigan State Spartans Athletics Questions

Sports Illustrated’s Hondo Carpenter answers the general emails and questions of Spartan Nation regarding Michigan State Spartans Athletics.
Michigan State football coach Jonathan Smith, left, shakes athletic director Alan Haller's hand during an introductory press conference on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023, at the Breslin Center in East Lansing.
Michigan State football coach Jonathan Smith, left, shakes athletic director Alan Haller's hand during an introductory press conference on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023, at the Breslin Center in East Lansing. / Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA

The Spartan Nation is fortunate to have a legitimate athletic director in my friend Alan Haller. Each week, we answer some of your Michigan State general athletic questions.

Michigan State University is fortunate to have Alan Haller at the helm, steering the Spartan athletics ship. MSU has a storied and glorious past in athletics, with multiple national titles in football, basketball, and hockey, among many other notable accomplishments on and off the competitive field, rink, or court.

Each week, we set out to answer some of your general athletics questions about the Spartan athletic program.

Hondo, some time ago, I was on vacation up north and caught the tail end of your interview on the radio.  You were talking about Alan Haller, and I thought you said you had told him he had the job or something close to that.  I was so angry I missed it.  Now that you answer questions, can you tell that story or email me back?  M. Ortega

OK, funny story. Before I moved on to cover the NFL, specifically the Las Vegas Raiders, for Sports Illustrated, two key Michigan State leaders asked me who I thought should be the next Michigan State AD. I gave them two names, Haller being one of them.

They asked me to write a “Position Paper” on both, and I did.  I informed Haller that I had, and that I had recommended him.

Alan is a fine man, whom I deeply and personally care for as my friend. He is honorable.

I kept Haller up throughout the process as it developed, and one day I got a call from a key Michigan State official who told me I should let him know, that he was going to get the job.

My wife and I were sitting in the parking lot of Chilly Jilly’s Patio (A restaurant in Boulder City, Nevada) about to go in and have supper.

I called Haller and told him.  It was a very happy moment for me, as my friend, to see Michigan State making some good decisions to get healthy.  While not the finish line, it was the starting point of the University that I love starting to get right.

Hondo, since you moved on at Sports Illustrated to cover the NFL, I noticed Bill Beekman brought back the words “State” as a stand-alone on many of our uniforms.  Now we still see it.  I knew you hated it, so it made me laugh that they waited for you to leave.  Why do you hate it?  Kerry H.

First, I do not in any way entertain the notion that they waited because of me moving. That has everything to do with Mark Hollis, the amazing former athletic director leaving the school.

MSU used to use the words “State” often along with a Block S.  When Hollis took over he commenced a major study into brand recognition.

In that study, Hollis found that with so many teams around the nation using a block S and the words “State,” people didn’t have Michigan State at the top of their minds when they saw those identifiers.

However, one of the strongest-known logos in ALL OF SPORTS was the Iconic Spartan head, the helmet logo, not the S.

Hollis decreed that MSU uniforms (Other than Iconic) throwbacks would use the words Michigan State or Spartans as words, as well as the Iconic Spartan head.

After the passing of George Perles, whom I love dearly, the block S was removed and gone. Hollis, out of great respect, kept it around, while not prominent, to honor Perles.

The words State and the block S, other than in throwbacks, are MSU throwing money away and confusing the viewing audience.

We, as Spartans, know what it is, but you want the increasing non-Spartan audience to identify with and recognize it.

I love the “Gruff” Sparty look, but every time I see State or the block S it irritates me because Michigan State is failing to achieve maximum exposure.

Hondo, I'm glad you are talking about MSU, but since you left, they have started playing videos of Hitler before games, and I have just checked out the clown show. I have family that were in the concentration camps, and I have weathered so many storms with them, but that was too much. I appreciate you so much, but it isn’t the same MSU. Abe W.

I appreciate your kind words, but I respectfully am going to push back.

The Hitler portion of the video was played ONCE (a short clip in an exhaustive long video) to entertain the students as they arrived early for the game to be there by kickoff.

Let’s not portray it as a feature-length video. 

In the trivia-based video, a question was asked, again a form of trivia, about Adolf Hitler.

Michigan State has difficulty getting all of the students into the stadium and into their seats by game time.  It was the thought process that offering some form of pre-game entertainment before everything was going strong would encourage early arrival.  Thus, students are in their seats for both appearances and noise.

In the process, a low-level staff member played this particular video without review. It should have never happened, and I am in no way making any excuse. It was absolutely unacceptable.

That said, Michigan State terminated the usage of that particular company's material and apologized.

Your usage of the term, “they have started playing videos of Hitler” is categorically false.

I do not blame anyone for being bothered by it; it was wrong.

I am a man who looks back with the advantages of old age and many mistakes.  No one who has ever accomplished anything has been flawless.  In an attempt to do something good (Early student arrival) a major mistake happened.

That said, the continued rhetoric against Michigan State over this issue is outrageous. The video should never have been played, again; there is no excuse, but the corrective action proved sincerity and demonstrated that it was an accident. I can add one more thing.

Michigan State, especially in the recent past has a wake full of many ignorant and stupid mistakes, sadly many by the people entrusted to lead it.

I personally know Alan Haller and Matt Larson, the Associate AD in charge of communications.  They are not just men I covered; they are friends and good men.

Like me, neither are perfect, but they are good men.  A mistake happened, and I can tell you personally that it made both men sad, and disappointed.

Making no excuse (and neither do they) for the video being played, I personally respect and honor my two friends, and can tell you that to continuously beat this drum against the University is nonsensical.

You have and should beat Michigan State up over thousands of unreleased emails and a board of trustees that often looks more like a clown car at a circus than a reflection of quality leadership, but this issue is not worthy of continuous hammering, in my opinion.

Hondo, I am very enthusiastic about Alan Haller, but I can’t get over his desire to sign Mel Tucker to the extended deal.  How can we forgive that?  Walt C.

First, I can tell you that I do not believe Haller wanted that.  He had bosses, and if that decision had been up to Haller, Mel Tucker would have moved on elsewhere, such as LSU.

I would agree if the Tucker deal had been Haller’s idea and genuine proposal, he should have been fired.  It wasn’t. 

Yet again, Michigan State politics reared its ugly head and intervened in a situation, not letting a hired person do their job.

Remember, at Michigan State, the AD doesn’t hire the football or men’s basketball head coach. The Board of Trustees does, and of course, the BOT is led by the university president.

Out of respect for Haller, I will say no more, but I was acutely aware of the behind-the-scenes dealings, and it disgusted me.

Hondo, I know that you are a very enthusiastic supporter of Adam Nightingale; I am as well. But I remember you talking him up years ago. I love hockey, but I don’t know a ton about him. Can you give some thought to Adam? Tina J.

First, let me say that I am always up to talk about “Nights.”  He is a wonderful man with a brilliant hockey mind. 

He had a back office, stuck in the corner of Munn, and he worked tirelessly for little to no money like a nutty professor and genius pouring over the film.

Nights is relatable and kind. Players understand him. He is young, so he relates to this generation in ways that you have to. Let’s be honest: The current generation of people is different from the past. It is neither good nor bad, just reality, and our older generation has made it that way.

Nights is so much like Nick Saban in his brilliant evaluative skills, how he sees the game, and how he strategizes.

Unlike Saban, he is much more personable. While being personable, do not take that as easy. He is as demanding as Tom Izzo and Saban, with a warm and personal side.

As I said at the time, he was the perfect hire. I am proud of him, and Nights is proof that good things can and do happen to good people.

I credit Alan Haller with seeing in him what he is doing now and having the keen eye to see it before others did. Hurrah to Haller and I have great respect for Nights.

If you have a question regarding Michigan State football, basketball, or the athletic program in general, please send it to, and when you do, put in the subject line MSU Q & A

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Hondo Carpenter