Point By Point Analysis of Mark Dantonio's Exclusive Interview with Spartan Nation

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A man who needs no introduction, Michigan State head football coach Mark Dantonio, recently joined us on Spartan Nation Radio. Though the season is three months away, Dantonio and his staff are working hard to recruit the class of 2013 and prepare for next season’s opponents. In the sixteen minute interview, Dantonio covered topics ranging from discipline to decision making to investing in people. His major points are arranged below in chronological order.

  • Dantonio feels that the main goal of the MSU football program isn’t simply to win
    games. “I believe that we were brought here for reasons other than winning
    and losing: to shape lives,” the coach explained. “That might just be
    coach rhetoric, but that’s what we try to do here. I say it over and over:
    it’s the chemistry of our football team that has given us the recent
    success.”
  • Winning does not come from just playing well, Coach Dantonio believes. “Chemistry,
    the way you treat people, the things that you get your players involved
    in…winning is a result of those things.” He also knows that overcoming
    adversity is a must, which is why he feels the success of late is built
    upon years’ worth of work. “It’s been a long time coming. You have to work
    through the tough times: that’s as big as anything.”
  • Hondo asked if Dantonio thought it was fair to say that a coach’s legacy is
    built 20 years after a player leaves the program. Dantonio responded: “I
    think it is fair. That’s the number one goal we have here. It’s not to win
    a championship: that will come as a result of other things. The number one
    goal is to have a relationship with our players for the rest of their
    lives.”
  • Dantonio sees recruiting as an investment, and one with big stakes. “You have to
    invest in people. When I sit and talk to a recruit, it’s an investment in
    giving someone a scholarship, and they’re investing in us as people,” the
    head coach explained. He went on to say that choices are critical. “It’s
    all about choices. But you have to have the right person coming. That’s
    why you go back to chemistry. We’re going to recruit the guy who fits our
    profile,” Dantonio said. “He might not be a five star recruit, he might be
    a three star or whatever. The stars behind a guy really don’t matter: it’s
    the soul of a person.” As he continued, Dantonio listed the factors of his
    investment in a recruit: “Can they handle adversity, can they handle the
    work ethic, can they go in the weight room and improve, can they get their
    education, and socially how do they handle themselves?”
  • The coaches have already begun to look at the opponents for the upcoming
    season. The staff began to study film in February and is continuing to do
    so now in June. As Dantonio firmly said, “We’re not going to work on them [the opponent] just during the week that we play them, we’re going to invest
    time prior to that.”
  • Discipline always a hot topic in the world of college football. Dantonio took over
    two minutes to explain his view on discipline. “Ultimately I’m the one who has to make
    that decision [of consequences] and look down the table not just at him
    but at his entire family,” he said. “It weighs very heavy on me as a
    person.” But, as Dantonio made clear, when rules are broken: “there are
    going to be consequences. Some may see them, some may not. But there have
    to be consequences. I have to be consistent, and I have to be fair.”
    Dantonio then evaluated what he meant by consistent and fair: “I have to
    give people an opportunity to talk. And I have to make sure that the two
    parties that are involved in this both see what we’re dishing out in
    discipline as fair. So when they walk away…there remains respect between
    the two parties.”
  • Dantonio takes a great deal of pride in being prepared for any situation that could
    occur on the football field. And he realizes that players and coaches also
    have to be ready. “It’s not just about Mark Dantonio reacting; it’s about
    the coordinators reacting in terms of what is thrown at them and how
    quickly they have to react.” Dantonio feels that he and the staff do a
    good job of preparing. “We take a lot of time in doing that. And that’s
    our job. In terms of the daily decisions you have to make, sometimes I
    have to say ‘Hey, slow the game down’. If I don’t know what to do, slow
    the game down,” he said. “Whether that’s football or that’s life, take a
    step back and look at it.” Dantonio makes sure that he involves the whole
    coaching staff in the process: “I want everybody to be empowered around
    here, so we take everybody’s input.”
  • Since Dantonio is in the spotlight as the head football coach at a major school,
    he receives a lot of attention. Many people second guess and criticize,
    but as Dantonio said, “You appreciate what people are saying and you take
    input. But I have to make decisions based on the knowledge I have.” No
    matter what happens, Dantonio stated: “In all honesty, the only person I
    have to answer to is our Lord. If I do things, in my opinion, to the best
    of my ability, that’s how I’m going to handle it.” The head coach
    evaluated his feelings further. “Ultimately, you have to do what you think
    is right. Like I said before, you have to be consistent and fair with
    people, and hope that they have a positive experience here.” Dantonio
    recognizes that wins and losses come as a result: “Because of that, wins
    will come. Know that losses will come too. There’s silver linings involved
    with those, there’s positives that come out of that, there’s learning that
    comes out of that.” But Dantonio’s prime concern is not football. He is
    concerned with a much larger goal. “This is about a lifetime; this isn’t
    about a football season. This is about developing people for a lifetime.
    No one has success every day of their lives…you have to be able to handle
    failure.”
  • Dantonio finished the interview by explaining the reason for the team’s recent
    success. “We can’t get to where we need to go without everyone going in
    the same direction. I said that on day one,” he explained. “Whether that’s
    administratively or the football team or the coaching staff or the sports
    information staff, etc., we have to be climbing towards the same goals, we
    all have to have the same ideals in terms of how we’re going to get there.
    That’s why we’ve had the success: everyone has bought in.”