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Spartan Nation’s Dantonio is doing it all: the right way!

Spartan Nation’s Dantonio is doing it all: the right way!

With no games played and no losses to ridicule some critics will say that my praise of new MSU football coach Mark Dantonio is only because we as of yet have no losses to rip or calls to second guess. To those people I simply say: you’re wrong.

Mark Dantonio is doing things the right way and in the political minefield that is MSU has yet to miss an opportunity to do everything right. If you were to write a script about how any coach should have come in and attempted to win back the affection of a divided Spartan Nation you couldn’t have written in at as good as Dantonio has performed this season.

He has hit all the buttons that this fan base needed and has single handedly resurrected a wounded group of people and infused it with fresh energy and vigor that has Dantonio sitting in the Pied Pipers spot and the Spartan Nation rejoicing over it.

I have always had multitudes of people stop me and want to talk Spartan Football. The good news now is that it is all good. It seems everywhere you go that everyone has the latest move that Dantonio has done to win back another lost soul. He are a few examples of what he has done.

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  1. Dantonio has let people know it is O.K. to be a Spartan. I am in no way implying that it was never chic to be a Spartan. I am saying that in the past the joy of it was sapped with all the crap that went along with the program. Since Perles left it has gotten increasingly bad every time you went into the Duffy. It got to the place that in the last four years alumni, former players, and donors and even in may cases then current players and coaches didn’t want to be. I actually remember last year walking through the building and people had their head hung low and you never saw and old player around or a fan. Now you can’t go through the place without catching kids wanting autographs, old players hanging out and coaches stopping in the hall to address anyone there. I was at the Duffy recently and Coach Bullough was there leaning against the wall telling stories about a trophy in the case to any and all that would listen. A former player that never played was on the other side talking with kids wanting an autograph while recruits and high school coaches filled the hallway and everyone wanted to talk about one thing: MSU. My point is that Dantonio came in and realized that the aloofness of the past few years doesn’t mesh with the Spartan Nation’s down home family atmosphere. Dantonio gets what Izzo has preached for years: MSU is a football school. He doesn’t loathe the attention (although his lack of smile may lead some to think it) he understands that this is his team and he steers the ship.
  2. By reinstating the spring game Dantonio gave something back to the fans. He understands that in the fall people are charged way too much money for what they have been given and he grasps the fact that this game is for the fans. He is a coach and I am sure he would have rather not had a game let alone made it open so anyone or school could come. Coaches are paranoid by nature. That is classic Dantonio in the fact that he doesn’t care about himself. With him it is all about the Spartan Nation. Today’s game is a gift from him to us. I am sure that the whole state won’t show up but he knows that it will still generate buzz and again, whether or not 78,000 people are there today he knows that at least affording them the chance to be earns their respect.
  3. He leads from the front. He has been to every obscure place in the country to speak and to address anyone that will listen. Having a horse auction and need an auctioneer? I am sure if you will let him he will be glad to show up and sell ya’ a horse and preach the Spartan Nation gospel. He is frank, refreshingly honest and yet relates to people because at his core he is one of us. He isn’t manufactured, he isn’t trying to make you feel like he is a genius he is Mark Dantonio: MSU head football coach. He beamed with pride over the hockey national title yet fought back tears talking about Virginia Tech. He jokes about the winners of today’s spring game getting steak and the losers getting pork and beans, yet ends the conversation with the fact that he will eat with the losers. He doesn’t big time people and loves the players. He would rather tell you how smart Mike Vollmar is (director of football operations) and how Narduzzi (Pat Narduzzi) is a genius then give himself credit for anything. He listens to his position coaches and actually makes the walk on who will never play feel like he is the next Heisman winner. One player who will start this season that considered transferring after JLS was fired told me this week “I can’t believe what has happened. I love Coach Dantonio and I love what he has done for this team. I can’t tell you how much I love being a Spartan.”Â
  4. Did you know this? He sent out a letter to all the schools in the state just letting them know how much he appreciated them and what they meant to this state. He also “volunteered” himself if they ever needed anything. My point is that he is reconnecting the state to MSU football.
  5. He has restored the pride and swagger that comes with being a Spartan. No matter how many times you see him he has never tried to dampen expectations. You can’t have a conversation of any length with him that he doesn’t talk championships. He has told me on three occasions how long LSU had gone, and OSU had gone without National Championships before Saban and Tressell won them. He has brought the hope of yester year’s championships on to the horizon of the Spartan Nation again. I have yet to hear him make any excuses. Remember how bad the secondary was last season? Now he and his coaches declare it as strength. My point is that in the past expectations were discouraged and we would have heard by this time each season how hope was bleak because MSU just needed more time but yippee the GPA was good. With Dantonio it is a course in: we may not have all we need but that is the job us coaches to get them there. Even when he could make an excuse that all would buy; he just can’t bring himself to do it. Fonzie couldn’t say sorry and he can’t say can’t!Â
  6. I got received 53 emails this week from people that he called and reminded them to renew season tickets. He actually recorded a message to go out to all of those season ticket holders because he gets it. I have no clue if that ever happened before him, but if it did no one ever cared enough to mention it. He is the first coach since Perles that has a deep respect for the fan base and better yet, a love for it. Â
  7. He has brought back the type of football that is MSU. Hitting and running the ball are those keys and all you have to do is go to a practice or talk to a player to know that this team is hitting and hitting hard.
  8. I had more then one player that was in this program prior to his arrival that didn’t know who George Webster was or Bubba Smith. Those days are over. He gets the fact that this program has to reconnect with it’s glorious past and these kids are learning about the legendary past.Â
  9. I love the Downtown Coaches Club. I am a proud member and think that it is the greatest college booster club. The past regime didn’t like to go and was basically told that you will participate. I DO NOT COMMENT on anything that happens that is associated with the DCC meetings because they’re closed to the media and I go as a fan. That said, I still wouldn’t tell you even if I could because I don’t want to take anything from the people that pay to be there. I will only tell you this. Dantonio and his staff have so embraced this wonderful group that at practice this week well after the events I talked with three coaches about it and how much they love it. This staff is a bunch of football loving freaks that love to talk about the glorious game of football. They also understand that today’s game takes boosters and they don’t despise them they embrace them and that is such a refreshing change.

There you have nine things to show you that he gets it. There are more but they aren’t necessary. You get the hint. Now it is time for the Spartan Nation to recognize that we finally got what we wanted. For those that wanted a break from the past he has all the things we liked with some wrinkles for those that wanted something fresh. Dantonio gets it and the big question is whether we get it? I just hope that the Spartan Nation recognizes that it needs him, more then he needed us and acts like it when some loses come. They will.Â

This team has to completely rebuild. I will say this right now and you can hold me accountable. Unless of course we see a recklessness of a drug culture return, or a disregard for the rules, or academic scandal (all things I highly doubt with Dantonio) you can argue plays and question decisions but he gets a five year pass from me to build this thing up and restore it. I don’t care if he wins 12 games in year three, for this program to be back on track it will take five years to judge that and I can tell you now: he will get (barring those issues mentioned that I don’t anticipate) all five from me and should from you.Â

Fasten your seat belt boys and girls. He sure isn’t a Cowboy or a pompous self-promoter looking for his next job. Mark Dantonio is a Spartan and lets all enjoy the good, the bad and the ugly of the next five years. Welcome aboard coach! I haven’t been this excited in a long time.