Love and Respect Make Burgeoning MSU vs. OSU Rivalry Fun!

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Love and respect make burgeoning MSU vs. OSU rivalry fun! 

What can you say about two teams that hate UM as much as each other? Is there not an old proverb that declares the enemy of my enemy as my friend? Now of course we are speaking in terms of rivalry, but if you blink you might miss the MSU vs. OSU rivalry growing everyday. Jim Tressel at one point in his career, not only wanted the MSU job, he interviewed for it. Hindsight is truly 20/20 as Jim Tressel has become the best football coach in all of college football. MSU is finally righting the ship with Mark Dantonio.

It is fascinating to see how things work out over time. Jim Tressel is no longer the candidate, but more the mentor. “I have deep respect, admiration and even love for Coach Tressel. I remember going in to talk to him at the end of a season and he reached into a folder and pulled out my wedding invitation and even had a picture of my dog. I owe a lot to him and deeply respect him,” was how Mark Dantonio described his relationship with Coach Tressel.   “We have known Coach Dantonio for years and years. MSU will come in here with great emotion and effort. They have a high powered offense and very aggressive defense,” was Tressel’s assessment of the Mark Dantonio lead Spartans. This game is crucial for many reasons. Recruiting the state of Ohio is probably the biggest. Now let’s be frank; MSU will not go head to head with OSU in Ohio for kids. That is a given, but Dantonio said it best when I asked him about this game and recruiting specifically. He cited the nearly 70 kids that reach Division I schools and nearly 45 to BCS schools from Ohio as the reason MSU needs Ohio talent to compete in the Big Ten. Universities typically sign between 20-25 recruits per year. When you look at MSU football history, the Spartans were at their best when they had a plethora of talent on the roster from the Buckeye state. It should be no surprise that Coach Dantonio’s staff started to contact Ohio recruits the day they were hired. 

It helps MSU when OSU isn’t able to offer some of Ohio’s mid-level talent. The 85 scholarship restrictions make it impossible for schools to stockpile talent four and five deep. This is why we see so much parity throughout the country. There is no shame playing second fiddle to Ohio State in their home state for football talent. Coach Tressel has been a great recruiter for Dantonio and MSU. Many recruits have commented to me about the mutual respect these two have for one another. This is something not often seen in college sports today. It is refreshing that these two wonderful men and coaches can compete and remain such close friends! 

Watching the two of them interact is fun. At the Big Ten media days I was able to interview them together. (You can click on the Hondo’s House ICON on the right to watch that interview) Tressel was completely sincere in his belief that God led Dantonio’s path to MSU. Dantonio cited the story of Esther and the declaration that God had positioned her for greatness for, “such a time as this.”  When asked today about going head to head with Tressel and whether or not it is a measuring stick for him as a coach, he replied, “Coach Tressel is a great friend of mine I never think of that as a competition!” 

“Mark Dantonio came in and set the blueprint for this defense,” was the answer Tressel gave today about how OSU has been able to sustain such success on defense. All day on Monday at his weekly press conference Dantonio did the same sending multiple compliments at Tressel. 
Smack talk is not on the agenda this week. When Dantonio was asked if it helps him having coached with Tressel he replied, “He knows I worked for him so I don’t know.” Tressel was equally tight lipped and both spoke little of strategy and knowledge of one another’s system. In today’s ego driven world of sports it may seem boring, but it certainly is refreshing.  
One thing is certain. It is nice to watch and see this rivalry grow. It is also nice to see two good guys that can compete at the highest level maintain a sense of dignity and respect. No matter what the score is Saturday, no matter who wins the game (although I still want the Spartan Nation to get the W) the real winner is college football and most of all OSU and MSU. In an age where Belichick and Mangini can’t even muster a handshake (mentor and teacher), it is nice that these guys are more than coaches they are role models! 

When MSU offered the job of head coach to Mark Dantonio he called his mentor. It was Tressel that told Dantonio, "You have to take it." Tressel could have been bitter, but he is bigger than that. Lucky for MSU.