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Still Bleeding Green George Perles Now Gives Back as a Trustee

Perles storied career is now culminating with a great stint on the MSU Board of Trustees.

Perles storied career is now culminating with a great stint on the MSU Board of Trustees.


George Perles bleeds green and white. He always has and always will.

The former Spartan football coach took his fair share of shots during his tenure at Michigan State, but he remained silent.

And when it comes to defying critics, silence is often the best defense.

Perles had personal battles with former Spartan coaches in the past. He said Nick Saban felt “uncomfortable” when he came around.

He referenced John L. Smith's group, which didn't include Spartans, and didn't wish to have Perles' input.

But that was then, and current Spartan front man Mark Dantonio welcomes the 76-year-old former football general, who is one of the most beloved men to direct a Michigan State team in memory. Dantonio’s coaching style has been, in ways, compared to Perles’.

And Perles appreciates Dantonio's willingness to bring him back into the fold.

“He’s been very, very good to me and my family,” Perles recently told Spartan Nation Radio. “He’s a class guy.”

If Perles had it his way, and Spartan fans are aware of the fact he often got it — the coaching staff and trustees would all be Michigan State-bred.

“That’s exactly the best way,” said Perles. “If we as board members make all our decisions based on what’s good for Michigan State University, we won’t make any bad decisions. If we let other things influence us, if we get involved with all kinds of individual needs — that’s when we make some mistakes.”

Perles was known as a hard disciplinarian when he was at the helm of Spartan football. Hard or not, he always had his players’ best interest at heart, and was often referred to as a father figure by them.

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“It’s very important,” he said of his parental-like influence. “Some of these young men don’t have fathers… They’re super kids if you give them a chance to prove their ability, and give them a chance to grow. I’m so proud of those kids when they turn out, I can’t tell you.”

Perles later added: “I still miss the game — I miss the competition. I miss being with the kids. I love those kids.”

It was Perles’ tough love and demeanor that helped the Spartans through the ‘80s, which was a challenging decade in regards to the grid iron. Michigan State won just one Big Ten title (1982) since the days of Duffy Daugherty, when it won two consecutive in 1965-66 and captured two national titles.

The basketball program was a far cry from where it is today, and the Spartan faithful needed something to hang their hats on.

They hung them on Perles.

The former Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator, defensive line and assistant head coach guided the green and white to two conference crowns.

The 1987 title propelled Michigan State to the 1988 Rose Bowl. Flint native Andre Rison stole the show, and led the Spartans to a 20-17 victory over the University of Southern California in Pasadena.

In 1990, the Spartans again defeated the Trojans, but it was a 17-16 triumph in the John Hancock Bowl. The football program was on its way up, much like it is today under Dantonio.

A year after Perles’ reign in East Lansing came to a close, a new era of Michigan State athletics was ushered in.

A young, enthusiastic and passionate man named Tom Izzo took over the basketball program, which was coached by Jud Heathcote since 1976. It had been 16 years since the Spartans and Magic Johnson cut the nets down in Salt Lake City in 1979, and the future under Izzo was uncertain.

Izzo made an average ensemble one of the nation’s elite in a few short years.

Perles said Izzo did a lot for the university’s athletic reputation, but would be the first to tell you he didn’t anticipate the Iron Mountain native’s monstrous success, which to date, includes six Final Four appearances in the last 12 seasons, a national title in 2000 and runners-up in 2009.

“No, I didn’t,” said Perles when asked if he foresaw Izzo’s resume. “I knew he was a good person and a good coach. But you know, he surpassed anything you could expect from any coach. This guy is something very, very special. We’re lucky to have him at Michigan State University.”