Here is a recent letter sent to LAKS from a member of the Spartan Nation. What do you think?

Hondo S. Carpenter

Again a loyal Spartan Nation reader named Brian sent me this. It is a recent letter he sent to President Lou Anna Simon I thought it was something for you people to read and send me your thoughts on:

First and foremost I would like to congratulate you on the hiring of Coach Mark Dantonio.  Not only for the selection of an individual that fits so many of the essential criteria needed for Michigan State but for your due diligence in the selection process.

I am a current season ticket holder, life long Spartan, Alumnus, Tailgater and financial supporter that donates whatever I can from our family budget.  I’m certainly not a high roller, just an average Joe.  I hope that won’t deter you from taking the time to read and digest my letter.

One of the ongoing issues that I believe hinders Michigan State in selling itself to football recruits and in growing it’s fan base (aside from victories) is it’s lack of football traditions.  Certainly the beauty of the campus, challenging curriculums and improved facilities help but there are a lot of beautiful campuses, facilities and curriculums from which prospective athletes can choose.  As much as we hate to admit it, perception and exposure are huge in the mindset of the fan and prospective athlete.  Quite frankly, MSU football has few prominent game day traditions to speak of.
How many people out there are University of Michigan fans that didn’t attend school there let alone have sniffed the Ann Arbor city limits. I hate to use the 600 pound gorilla as an example but when you think of Michigan Football you instantly visualize the team coming out of the tunnel at the “Big House” and jumping up to slap the “GO BLUE/M CLUB SUPPORTS YOU” banner.  I dare say nobody markets their football program better, Don Canham was a genius.  Of course being the winning-ist (or should  I say “whining-ist”) team in college football history in both games won and winning percentage doesn't hurt.

USC has “Tommy Trojan” riding “Traveler” into the Coliseum, Texas has it’s Long Horned steer “Bevo”, Auburn the “War Eagle”, Georgia’s it’s “UGA”, Louisiana State’s “Bayou Bengal” and Colorado’s “Ralphie the Buffalo”.   Notre Dame has “Touchdown Jesus” and Clemson has the “Rock”.  Florida State has it’s “Scalps of Turf” from victories on opponents fields which are planted in a graveyard outside the end zone.  They also have “Chief Wahoo” riding “Renegade” planting a spear from horseback at midfield creating an awesome sight.  Oklahoma has it’s horse drawn prairie schooner the “Boomer Sooner”.  Texas A&M has “Home of the 12th Man” emblazoned upon the upper deck ring while OSU has their band dot the “i” in Ohio and Penn State has the Legend on the Nittany Lion. I have been to many college football stadiums in my day but of the venues listed above I have only been to Spartan and Michigan Stadiums and there in lies my point.  Even as a casual college football fan I can name the game day traditions of half a dozen teams that I don’t follow without batting an eye.  In your travels ask someone from out of East Lansing or the state of Michigan to name an MSU game day tradition and I dare say they would be hard pressed to do so.

While I’m not suggesting that we do away with MSU’s game day tradition of the teams walk from The Kellogg Center to the Spartan Stadium, this somber and game face stroll often takes on the appearance of a funeral procession even for big games that we are expecting to win or at least be competitive.  Even when positive and the team is pumped up this is rarely exciting and never gets television exposure.  There is no game day tradition or ritual that is celebrated by the team or fans that is recognized and promoted by the media locally and more importantly nationally.  Any salesman will tell you that while your product must have substance, it’s the sizzle that sells it.  When you think about the pageantry, excitement and tradition that is college football, name me one (aside from Sparty) belonging to MSU that gets nationally recognized game day or advertising exposure.

We used to have the Chariot which seemed to be catching on but that was pulled after the installation of the new grass turf either for safeties sake, field wear and tear or both.  Don’t get me wrong as Sparty’s entrance to start the game is great, but he’s a caricature; cartoon-ish, a warm and fuzzy mascot.  While the new bronze “Spartan” that greets students, alumni, visitors as well as the opposition serves as an impressive guardian to the gateway of the athletic complex, it is stoic and unanimated.  The video board inside the stadium puts out a great pre kick-off video bringing the Spartan to life but again this is not viewed on T.V.
Spartan Stadium which was greatly improved both aesthetically and functionally by the press box renovation still lacks personality and a moniker.  There’s “The Big House” in Ann Arbor, “The Horseshoe” at Ohio State, “Death Valley” at Clemson & LSU, and the “The Swamp” at Florida just to name a few.  Nick Saban or Bobby Williams nicknamed Spartan Stadium “The Woodshed” and I think we should either utilize this or create a new identity.  Look at all the dollars generated for UM athletics just from “The Big House” nickname and memorabilia.  Look what the “IZZONE” has done for the Breslin Center, the basketball program and contribution coffers.  We need to do something to this end for Spartan Stadium and the football program.

When you visit Michigan Stadium look up at it’s scoreboard which brags to it’s fans, recruits and the nation of its fourteen national championships (a bunch of which are questionable).  Since 1950 MSU has six legitimate modern era championships to claim (five shared and one consensus) and nobody outside of the MSU community knows about it. During that same time frame MSU has one consensus national championship (‘52) to Michigan’s none – as their most recent (‘96) was shared with Nebraska.  But a recruit sees fourteen national championships on the scoreboard at Michigan to MSU’s zero, because we haven’t promoted that success.  Perception.  MSU used to have a huge bronze plaque recognizing the ‘52 or ‘66 National  Championship attached unceremoniously to the side of Spartan Stadium that unless you knew where to look for it, you were unaware of its existence.  Since the renovation this National Championship plaque has been relocated somewhere and remains uncelebrated by the masses and the media.  I’ve walked the perimiter of the stadium and couldn’t find it.  I’m guessing that it’s inside the new press box lobby?  The Rose Bowl plaque on the stadium exterior by section K looks overlooked and unattended too.  We don’t even have a spot light on it.  I suggest recognizing the other Rose Bowls and National Championships with similar plaques and giving them a place of honor where the entire “Spartan Nation” can recognize and applaud them.  Perhaps placing them down by the student “Corner Blitz” on the stadium wall where students and game day sideline reporters and cameras can point them out every game.

While on the subject of student sections have you seen the home student sections at Penn State and UM.  Granted both stadiums have 35,000 plus more seats than Spartan Stadium but what an impressive sight of unity and school spirit.  How do we get our student fans to act in concert like these schools?  How do we nurture a same like passion?  I’d like to suggest that since former Coach John L. Smith has retired the #1 jersey from player participation and with Coach Dantonio planning on the same, why not keep it retired and give it to the fans.  Have all the students in the “Corner Blitz" wear a #1 jersey as a sign that as a school and fan base not only do we stand as one but strive to be #1.  The “Izzone” could adopt the concept as well (1zzone) to carry on the theme.

Couldn’t we have the names of and/or retired jerseys prominently displayed or represented somewhere on the walls down by the field, press box or scoreboard?  Why don’t we have six national championship plaques (1952 outlined in white, the rest in green), bowl participation and Big Ten Championships prominently displayed inside the stadium (perhaps on the press box siding between the windows) for all to see?  Think of all the camera shots and national media exposure that we would get every game if displayed inside the stadium. I have never seen nor heard mention of the flags promoting our championships outside the South side of the stadium in a pre game or game time TV snippet.  We play the games to win championships, so when we do win them what’s wrong with letting our fans, recruits and the world know that we are proud of those accomplishments. “Son your name could be up there some day” or “you could have your name attached to a national championship too if you come here” are the things recruits want to hear and see.  We need to help them visualize how they can be part of the future by being part of the past.  They need to see themselves in that uniform on that field as a Spartan!  These are huge promotional issues and tools that we’ve earned and need to utilize, implement and promote to create a better and more successful image.

Lastly uniforms.  Programs like Penn State, Alabama, USC, Michigan, Ohio State with the exception of a few minor exceptions have changed little over the past 40 years.  We change our uniforms like its a fashion show.  Lets get back to tradition.  If I get a vote I’d love to see the uniforms return to the following: Â
The darker green helmets and jerseys used by the Perles and Duffy’s teams.  A single stripe down the center of the helmet with the current or “Duffy” Spartan logo.  The retro helmet used for the Notre Dame 40th anniversary game looked awesome! Don’t put numbers on the side of the helmets alaAlabama or we’ll look just like Alabama, only in green.  With apologies to George Perles – no Block “S” on the helmet either.  There’s half a dozen schools out there with an “S” on the helmet.
The Jersey of course with “MICHIGAN STATE” across the front with numbers on the sleeves as they currently are, not atop the shoulder pad.  Players names on the back of the jersey, let these kids know were going to promote the team and them as well as them (again-perception).
Pants all white or with a single stripe ala Duffy’s era not Perles “Steeler” stripe which is too big.  And even though they don’t look bad, get rid of the green pants and stick with tradition.  I want other teams to put on their alternative uniforms to get up for us, not so we get up for them!  

And finally, black shoes.  

And don’t ever change to “Field Turf”!
It’s not about sensationalism, but when recruiting either athletes or dollars, the perception needs to be positive, prominent, prideful and traditional as well as exciting.  This is all part of the equation...

I know it’s a lot to take in and I apologize for rambling. Thanks for reading.

Thanks Brian! Now Spartan Nation let me know what you think?



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