Mark Dantonio Plans To Return in 2020 As Coach of the Michigan State Spartans & MORE
Tom & Lupe Izzo Media Center
East Lansing, MI
The 2019 Michigan State football season has been a nightmare. As the team entered the season the coaches and players shouted Big Ten championship expectations. At 4-6 the Spartans have to beat lowly Rutgers (nearly a given) and Maryland to finish the season bowl eligible, with the highlight possibly being a bowl game in Detroit.
Spartan ticket sales are plummeting and one MSU senior administrator told me yesterday, “The stands are going to be empty versus Maryland.” Fans are unhappy and many major donors are furious. The state of Michigan State Football right now is not good.
But despite the storm, Mar Dantonio announced that he isn’t finished at Michigan State and that he would return as coach in 2020. You can watch the entire press conference above or read the entire transcript below:
MARK DANTONIO: Obviously post U of M, disappointed. We point a lot towards that game every year. A big game. Sometimes you got to live with it, got to live with it for a year and put it in perspective as you go forward. Big game.
We needed to handle adversity better in that football game I felt. I thought we started early pretty well. We can go back through the game as we ask questions, if you'd like.
Bottom line, the game I thought got away from us with the turnovers. Especially in the second half, we kept close, scored first. Had some penalties as we went down through it.
Probably the biggest play in the game was when we punted down to the 2. On third-and-seven, they were able to convert and drive down the football field. Felt like we had them in a hole there, felt like we had some momentum. The double penalty when we got down to the 30 yard line or so impacted the game, as well. But you got to deal with those type of things.
To me it's always a bit about what are we going to do next. Two crucial games coming up. When you look at what we've done in the past 12 years after the Michigan game, win or lose, big game with success or a game where we didn't have the success.
We're a 10-2 football team. We have to look at that and try and build on that as we go forward. That's exactly what we'll do.
Rutgers is up next. Nunzio Campanile is thrust into a situation there. I think they're handling that. They play extremely hard. They've had some problems with some injuries and some different things that they've gone through. Crucial game for us as we go over there, next two games critical.
With that I'll take some questions, we'll go from there.
Q. With the early signing day coming up, talking to recruits, multiple have said other schools are recruiting against you about your future. When you're asked about that by a recruit, what do you say to them?
MARK DANTONIO: I talk about living in the present. I talk about my relationship with them as a recruiter right now. I talk about the future in terms of what's going on for them, the aspects of whether it's facility upgrades that will be coming here in the next years or two years or three years as we move forward in that area. I talk about the future.
I also talk to them very sincerely, as well, that I don't want to ever be the point of a discussion, I've never tried to be that. When I got asked these questions in the summer, I talked about living in the present. That's what I try and do.
I firmly try and believe, just like today, I'm watching a recruit, just like last night we got a national recruit on campus, he's over at practice, at the basketball game. I'm watching film this morning, watching Rutgers this morning, dealing with all kinds of things that give consideration to the future of this program.
We have 19 committed players right now. I've talked to every one of those players. I talk to them about it. Of course, everybody is going to use anything they can get. I think the fact we've had stability here has been something that people look for. So I'm going to try to continue to offer them that stability.
My obligation is to my players. The obligation is to the university, Spartan Nation as a whole. That's my plans as I go forward. That's what I say.
Q. Jacob, does he have to sit the first half because of the ejection or targeting?
MARK DANTONIO: I think that's targeting.
Q. He would be available to play the start?
MARK DANTONIO: Yeah. As far as I know. I don't want to get quoted too often. I get quoted a lot. As far as I know.
Q. You and other guys on your team, players, have said part of the motivation is it can always get worse because you have been there. Is part of that almost driven not out of fear of losing but a fear of not making it worse?
MARK DANTONIO: No, I've always told our players that for years, I've told my players, our players. I always believe that you have to look for the good in things, that you have to look for ways to make things better. If you feel sorry for yourself, then things invariably go downhill.
My message to our staff today or yesterday or Sunday, message to our football team is the same: you challenge yourself to be the best, you challenge yourself to be strong. As I said last week, you move forward. That's what I've always tried to do.
When I've said to somebody, whether they missed a block or they've had some type of a situation, Hey, it can always get worse, it can always get worse, maintain your level of maturity.
The big message to me, for me, always is, how do you handle adversity. I think that's something right now that is a challenge for probably everybody in society to some degree, especially young people. How do you handle your adversity that you're thrust into.
That's a part of it. That's one of the things we've tried to deal with on a daily basis, not just game to game. I've said that over the course of time.
Q. I feel like we've asked this a little bit last few weeks. That balance of the youth of this team with trying to get bowl eligible. Specifically the offensive line. What is that balance like?
MARK DANTONIO: A.J. Curry, his ankle got tired basically. He was able to play. But in that fourth quarter, I wanted to play Devontae Dobbs. I think he needs to play. But we're playing with a true freshman, left guard, true freshman center and left tackle in the fourth quarter. That's tough duty sometimes.
I said going into the game, Michigan is a good football team, they have a good football team. We need to play with shock, explosiveness and shock. We need to do that on a consistent basis. If we're going to win the football game, that's what has to happen.
We must win the turnover margin. We're minus two in turnovers. Just so everybody is straight, because I do keep record of this, when we're plus two, we're 43-2 over the course of time. It's not that bad when we're minus two, but we don't have a winning record when we're minus two. That influences the football game.
We did neither on a consistent basis. They beat us in the shock factor, I'm talking about explosiveness, okay? That's something we have to be able to accept and change.
Young players, when you play 12 true freshmen, I'm not sure how many redshirt freshmen played, when we're playing players that are in their first experience in that football game, it takes time to understand what it is. It takes time to understand what it's all about.
There was a quietness maybe in that stadium when we scored first. Maybe there was a little bit of something there. It takes time to understand what that game is about. Like I've said to all of them going into the game, you play in it one time, you understand. That's got to benefit you in the future, if you choose to allow that to happen.
Yeah, we played a lot of young players. We'll probably have to continue to do that. But they're good players. Two years from now, what kind of offensive line are we going to have? Should be pretty good. They're good athletes, good players, but they're young. You have to take that into consideration.
Q. A point of clarity. Do you plan to be the coach here against Northwestern starting next season?
MARK DANTONIO: Yes, yes.
Q. Is there anything you could see between now and then that would change that?
MARK DANTONIO: Well, I can't predict the future. If I would, I guess we'd be 10-0 right now, okay? I can't predict the future. My intentions are to be the head football coach here.
I've always said I live in the present. I've always said that. There's certain things that you have control of, there's certain things you don't have control of. I can't control anything, but my intentions are there, yeah, absolutely. My father always talked to me complete the circle, complete the circle. That's what I'm trying to do.
Q. With Jalen, physically is he 100%? We see him on the depth chart as a starter.
MARK DANTONIO: Jalen could have possibly played some, but he hadn't practiced. He really only practiced on Thursday. He hadn't been hit, jostled around. Ball security, those type of things. Wanted to give an extra week to get his feet on the ground.
But he'll play. He practiced yesterday. He'll play in this football game.
Q. Would a redshirt for him be on the table or you see how things play out?
MARK DANTONIO: Well, he only played one game. If he plays the next two or three, he would be able to be redshirted.
Q. I think it was the 2012 season when you needed to win your last game to get into a bowl. Is there another time in your tenure you can draw for the current situation your team is facing?
MARK DANTONIO: In 2012, we had to win our last two football games to go to a bowl game. We were able to do that. That was big for us at that time.
I guess last year we had to win our last game, I believe. I guess we still would have went.
I really haven't thought in that vein. I just know where our football team is right now. We've had a lot of injuries, we've had a very tough schedule historically in terms of how it's played out with the byes in there, playing one game basically in a month. We've had some tough breaks, whether it's officiating or with some different things going on. I'm not pushing it on that, but we've had some things go against us in that capacity.
We thought we'd have a special season going into this season. You have to deal with things as they are. That's what we'll do, that's what I'll do.
As I go in there, I talk about belief a lot, where we're going from there. I have a lot of people that basically are praying for us. A lot of people that send letters of support or notes of support. I appreciate those. I appreciate the prayers very, very much. Humbling when people pray for you.
I appreciate our past players, getting notes from them, things of that nature, because they know what we go through. They know how hard we work. They know we work 85 hours plus. Players work 20 plus, or 20 minus I guess. They know how important it is to us in terms of winning and losing, how we go about it.
Arthur Ray stopped by in practice yesterday. I had not seen Arthur probably in years. He sort of stopped by unannounced, really just to check on me a little bit.
I thought it was important for our football team to know who he was, what he had gone through. 13 surgeries on a cancerous leg. He's coaching now. Let him tell his story.
So when you think that you've got things sort of where there's a struggle, you look around, you see other people, what they've got, what they don't have, you sort of find your way a little bit clearer. You understand that this is a job, this is a game, this is athletics. This should not be life and death. There are people out there that have overcame major, major obstacles.
I took a step back and looked at that. It made life a little clearer yesterday.
Q. In the off-season, you brought your defensive coaches back on two-year deals, offensive on one. Explain that reasoning. Not questioning why you did it.
MARK DANTONIO: I felt at that time that was warranted. I think that's just the way I wanted to do it. Felt like it was warranted based on how our defense had played. Sometimes there's a separation of those type of things.
In the past it's been certain people. That's the decision we made at that point in time.
Q. Sometimes when you put too much emphasis on things in life, it can escape you. How do you handle that when it comes to trying to win the last two games to become bowl eligible?
MARK DANTONIO: How do I measure?
Q. Sometimes you put too much emphasis on something, it can escape you.
MARK DANTONIO: Go the other direction?
Q. Exactly. How do you make sure that doesn't happen?
MARK DANTONIO: I want our players to play confident. I want our players to play loose. I want them also to understand there is a pressure to playing these games. Also I want them to understand that pressure is a privilege. It's privilege to be head coach at Michigan State, but there's a lot of pressure that comes with it. A privilege to be our quarterback. Probably more pressure there than being a defensive tackle.
There's certain things that have to get done in a football game. At the same time it's important we be confident, have fun with each other, that we move forward in a positive way.
That's why yesterday the energy on the football field, there wasn't a lot of poor me's. It was very positive, very energetic, very light. Young people I think are resilient, probably far more resilient than we are as coaches or as adults. But that's the nature of it. That's the way it should be because it's sport, athletic contest.
People out there don't really want to hear that because it's important to them, too. It's their school or whatever the case. Everybody gets wrapped up in it, tied up in it.
At the end of the day our players are going to play. They'll come ready to play. They always have. I would say this past week our players were ready to play. I would say even after we threw the pick at the beginning of the third quarter, they scored a touchdown afterwards, that we rallied back, drove down the field to the 16 yard line, had a chance to take it to a one-score game or two-score game. Didn't happen, we had to kick a field goal. It is sort of what it is.
I don't have any doubt that we'll play, be ready to play.
Q. You said your intention is to be back next year as the coach of this team. Is it also your intention to do so as the staff?
MARK DANTONIO: I don't make decisions on that until I weigh out everything to the best that I can. Probably I have the most knowledge in terms of what's going on within our football team as to who did what in terms of was that a player, structure, coaching, officiating, all the underlying things that go along with that.
I think that I've tried to figure out what worked, what didn't work, how to critique it, what was in control, out of our control, how do I evaluate that. I've always made those decisions after the fact. That's what I'll continue to do to the best of my ability.
Q. You mentioned earlier completing the circle. What does that look like to you, what does that mean when you say that?
MARK DANTONIO: It means when you start something, you want to finish it. That's what it means to me and my family. That's sort of the direction that we've always tried to go. That means it's not quitting in the middle of something when you don't think something is finished. I don't think I'm finished.
Coaching is very difficult because you're on a merry-go-round that's going about 150 miles an hour, if you can imagine that. Centrifugal force keeps you in the center of that. That will be a good quote for you, yeah. Highly intelligent word.
I think it keeps you right in the center of that, so you're constantly going to the next thing. You just are constantly going to the next thing: recruiting, critiquing, spring ball, fall camp, the season. You just keep going.
I've been fortunate enough to be on that, blessed to be on that. That's what I do. That's what I've done. I'm the head football coach at Michigan State until whatever.
I'm only in control of some things. I'm not in control of everything. I do my best. I feel pretty certain. There's always little reminders of the past hanging around us. When I went home last night after working 15 hours, scratching my head and saying, Why am I working 15 hours again, 85 hours a week? I went home, you put on something, I don't go to sleep, contrary to what people believe, I don't, okay? I took something off the shelf, put it on, looked at it. I said, There's a Rose Bowl insignia on this thing, okay?
Sort of sent the message home to me there's been a lot of success here, a tremendous amount of success here. That can happen again, and that can happen under my watch. That's what I felt.
Got in bed, snuggled up and got up at 5:15.
Q. Any room in the next two games, Brian is leaving after this year, push to get to the bowl, is that a priority at all to try and get another guy or guys in there through this last stretch?
MARK DANTONIO: It's a difficult balance. But I will say that, yeah, there's that thought process. Got to see it in practice. Got to see it in practice.
The number one thing that we need to do, I've said this opening statement here, it's crucial to win these two football games. The first one is up. Don't worry about the second one till the first one gets up.
All my focus is basically on Rutgers, what do we got to do to beat Rutgers. Obviously if a recruit comes on campus of that stature, I'm going to take our time with them. My focus is Rutgers, how do we get better, how do we play our very, very best.
Q. Does this situation remind you going into Minnesota when you had to win to go to the post-season? Do you remember that?
MARK DANTONIO: Yeah, I do remember that. We needed to be 2-0, okay? That's all that was important. We sort of gathered ourselves together and went there with a purpose. We were able to get that done, both those games.
Q. With what's been accomplished for 13 years and the reality of present, what completes your circle? Does it take finding something else with a Rose Bowl logo on it or something else that tells you you have done what you came here to do?
MARK DANTONIO: That's a tough question because every year starting with the dream of being the Big Ten champion. That's been a reality here, not a pipe dream. We've been able to accomplish that. That's the standard. That's the standard. You're trying to meet that standard as we go forward. You're trying to meet that standard, which is a high standard.
If you look at the teams that we played this year and point towards those, only one of those teams that we played is going to the Big Ten championship. We've done that with the playoffs, with the Big Ten championship game twice, co-champions once. That's the measuring stick. That's where you want to get.
You step off the plank at that point in time? I don't know. So I don't know. That's why I sit there and say I live in the present because I don't know those things, you just don't. You know how you feel, how you feel physically. You feel that people count on you, you feel an accountability, an obligation to your players.
I don't know. It's hard to explain. A good question, but hard to explain that.
Q. I know you talked about some of the young players, the Minnesota game. Especially with the changeover coming on the defensive side with so many guys, how crucial it's getting to a bowl game but extra practice for those guys moving into the off-season?
MARK DANTONIO: Always been critical. We've been to a bowl game every year but one. That standard is established. It's important. It's important to get to. When you get to the bowl game, then you start practicing for the bowl game, it becomes more important to win the bowl game.
Some of the young players we're playing already. They're getting game reps. We continue to put people in there like Tate Hallock is in there, playing on three differ special teams. Guys are getting reps and some turns in terms of what they're doing.
We've had a lot of injuries. Other places have had injuries, too. They're getting opportunities. But it's important to have the practice.
Q. (No microphone.)
MARK DANTONIO: A lot of time over the past, we've had that. We've got some guys that are young players that still have not played that are very good football players. Jalen Hunt is a guy that is a good player, very good player in the future. There are others, I'm just bringing him up.
All good? Thank you for your time.
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