Economic Times Make For Tough Decisions

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Economic Times Make For Tough Decisions

Michigan State has always been a school known in recent memory for two things: a great basketball program and mediocre football with a couple decent seasons mixed in. When I was growing up, in a house with a staunch Michigan fan for a father, I was always drawn to basketball. When it came to the point when I really started paying attention to sports, Michigan State was a basketball school and basketball was my game. The product that was put on the hardwood brought me to the green and white.

I got into football as I grew older and loved watching the Spartans on Saturday. What hope there was in each and every season, though, always seemed to crumble in the end. For every team that started off 4 – 0, it seemed we were assured a mediocre 6-6 finish. I enjoyed watching my team, but I knew that no matter how good the season looked like it was going to be, it was always going to end with me telling myself, “well, basketball season is right around the corner, at least there’s something to look forward to.”

So many of us watched Michigan State football go through these ups and downs at the games. Even though we devoted our time and resources to the football team and rarely felt like it lived up to the money we spent, we got our money's worth with the basketball team in the end. Comparing the programs historically, it's a wonder how Spartan football ever maintained the following it does.

Coach Dantonio Stopped Spartan Football's Demise Into Mediocrity and Restored the Faith of Spartan Fans in the Program!
Coach Dantonio Stopped Spartan Football's Demise Into Mediocrity and Restored the Faith of Spartan Fans in the Program! Photo courtesy of Bill Marklevits.

Michigan State football's last Big Ten Championship 1990.  In the same amount of time, the Spartans have been to the Final Four 5 times, with one National Championship and another appearance in the National Championship game. Apples to oranges, when you think about it. Whether you were a huge football fanatic or not, I don’t think you would honestly be able to say you would rather spend your hard earned money on a faltering football team over a thriving basketball program.

The era is different now, especially with money so tight in these tough economic times. People must decide where to devote any extra resources they have, and most likely it's going to be spent on a winner. The choice of allegiance to the football or basketball program now is not nearly as easy as it might have been in the past.

Say the programs were married; basketball has almost always been the primary bread winner. Tom Izzo's program is still reaping loads of revenue and huge rewards for the University, but the large gap between it and football is now shrinking. For the basketball program, Izzo never really allowed the program to slip after Jud Heathcote was done. He kept the Spartans humming along quite nicely, and didn’t really see many down times. The football program, though, has not been so lucky.

After legendary coach Duffy Daugherty, left in the early 1970's, save for a few years with George Perles, the football team saw little success for sustained periods. For all of the successes the basketball program has had, the football program had just as many failures.

But now, along with a tougher economy, MSU finally has an equally tough football program. Mark Dantonio has picked up where Duffy and George Perles left off. In Dantonio's first season, as many of us know, he took us to a bowl game and a 7-5 record, was uncharted waters for our team.  It wasn’t just a one year wonder either. Dantonio has sustained success both on and off the field and changed the culture of the program to match what has been on display for many years just across campus in the Breslin Center.

This is where we as fans struggle in difficult economic times. If you have the resources to still attend both team's games that is wonderful. If you are a staunch fan of one over the other, the choice is easy. Many, though, have a split in their devotion and support both programs. I know for me having to chose to attend a game of a team that could very well compete for the Big Ten Championship on the gridiron, or a team that is going to be ranked in the top 5 to start the season and could be right back in the Final Four this year on the hardwood, is a tough call.

The economy has taken a hit and so have many of our pocketbooks, but how do you decide which events to attend? I know for me, it comes down to my preference, and no matter how much I think I have an equal devotion to both, I don’t. Football steals my heart and will be getting my hard earned cash. Maybe you will decide the exact same way by digging deep into your gut and making that call. Others will have different ways to decide on which events to attend: maybe flipping a coin, or playing rock, paper, scissors with a friend – winner decides where the loser goes. As much as we don’t like it, eating and having a roof over our heads is more important than attending both team's games.

Even in these tough times, one thing is for sure -- decisions have to be made about funds everyday for many families. But here is one thing to hang your hat on: It has to put a smile on your face that it’s not such a clear-cut decision anymore as to which games to attend because we now have not just one great coach and program to be proud of, we have two.

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