Mark Dantonio & Spartan Football Problems A Four Year Slide Into Mediocrity

Jeff Dullack

Following Michigan State’s 2015 season where the Spartans won the Big Ten and advanced to the College Football Playoff, the Spartan football program has spiraled downward, reaching a low point that few expected the program to reach under Mark Dantonio.

But as Michigan State recovers from its blowout loss to rival Michigan, the Spartans find themselves losers of five straight, including a loss to Illinois that can be – and probably should be – considered as the worst loss of the Dantonio era, the season can only be described as a disaster.

Following the loss to Illinois, Dantonio was asked what he can tell fans and alumni to assure them that recent seasons aren’t a sign of things to come, but rather an aberration and instead, he gave a short response that did little to ease concerns. “Next question.”

A strange response to a question that could have been used as a lifeline for a coach that has come under fire over the past two seasons, but instead it looks like a sign that the sideline general, who always seemed to have an answer might be running out of them.

Since that memorable 2015 season, Michigan State has barely put together a .500 record, sitting at 24-24 overall and the Spartans are a dreadful 15-18 in Big Ten play during that four-year stretch.

There are a number of reasons for that downfall, ranging from the well-documented issues with the failure to make meaningful changes to the coaching staff to Michigan State’s once-heralded 2016 recruiting class now consisting of just six players on the active roster.

Now sitting at 4-6 following Saturday’s embarrassing loss to Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan State now needs wins over Rutgers and Maryland just to qualify for a bowl game in a season that has already been deemed unsalvageable.

Following Saturday’s loss, Dantonio told reporters that his team simply has to move on as his team faces the possibility of missing a bowl game for the second time in four years, another example of how far his program has fallen since 2015.

“We work on this game all year long, to some degree, because it's an important game,” he said. “After it's done, whether you win or you lose, you must let things go and you must move to the next challenge. That's what we've always tried to do and that's what we've done in the past and that's what we'll continue to do. Have to be able to do that, otherwise, things start to weigh you down. You got enough things to worry about. A person, or us, or whoever. We’ve got to go, there's no time to waste around and shuffle around and talk to reporters, you got to go. That's the way we handle things, and that's what we'll do.”

But the ailments that led to Michigan State’s fall from grace can easily be identified, after grossly underachieving in 2016 and 2018, Dantonio and the Spartans chose to remain status quo instead of demanding more out of the program and coaching staff.

After Michigan State’s disastrous 3-9 season Mark Dantonio defended his decision to keep the coaching staff intact in an exclusive interview with Spartan Nation, saying that he felt the coaching staff shouldn’t be punished for one bad year after a handful of successful years, likening the situation to someone working in the manufacturing field.

“I would like to think,” Dantonio said,” that if that guy was supposed to make 500 cars every single year and made 1,000 the last five years that if he made 200 for one year, they’d give him the benefit of the doubt.”

The answer is one that can be viewed as commendable and unsurprising for a coach who has always been so loyal to his staff, but now Dantonio must be held accountable for his mistakes and inability to keep his program performing at a high level.

After refusing to make the necessary changes to the coaching staff following last year’s disappointing season, Michigan State finds itself in the midst of a lackluster season for the third time in four years and again wondering, ‘What if?’

And regardless of what happens in the final two games of the season, the fact remains for yet another year that drastic changes are needed to change the trajectory of the Spartan football program.

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