Secret of Mark Dantonio's success
September, 3, 2014
By Brian Bennett | ESPN.com
Former Michigan State quarterback Brian Hoyer returned to campus for the first time in a few years this spring to watch a Spartans practice. According to current starting quarterback Connor Cook, Hoyer noticed one big difference, and it had nothing to do with the team's new facilities.
Cook said Hoyer told him that head coach Mark Dantonio seemed to have lightened up from the ultra-serious man he remembered from his playing days. Informed of this story a couple of days later, Dantonio scoffed.
"Brian forgets," Dantonio said. "I laughed a lot back then, too."
Any suggestion that Dantonio has made significant changes to his personality or approach needs stronger evidence than mere memory. That's because unwavering consistency has been the driving force behind the rise of both the Spartans program and their eighth-year head coach to the nation's elite, a steady climb that can take another step up with this Saturday's showdown at Oregon.
Like his teams, Dantonio might lack the sizzle and pizzazz of Oregon (though his fierce defenses in East Lansing have been innovative; America just likes offense more). While the Ducks are known for their futuristic uniforms, the look most associated with the Spartans might be the grimace Dantonio usually wears on the sidelines.
In press conferences and other public appearances, Dantonio can sometimes come off as stoic, maybe a little robotic, even though that's not really who he is behind the scenes. But it's his focused, even-keeled way of doing things that has helped Michigan State go 43-12 since 2010, post double-digit wins in three of the past four seasons and rise to the top of the Big Ten.
That's the kind of consistency the Spartans rarely enjoyed prior to 2007, when Dantonio took over a program that had cratered under John L. Smith.
"As an alumnus I feel like I can say this, but we'd always heard comments 'Same Old Spartans,'" Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis said. "We were known for winning the big game then losing the puppy game. We had spikes within seasons, spikes within decades.
"The way to change that is to get everybody on the same page and moving in the same direction, and that's what Mark has done here."
To continue reading on how Dantonio built Michigan State into a national power, plus take a peek at his lighter side, click here.
BIG TEN SCOREBOARD
Final Nevada 3 Louisiana-Lafayette 16 Final Utah State 21 UTEP 6 Final 22 Utah 45 Colorado State 10 Final Western Michigan 24 Air Force 38 Final South Alabama 28 Bowling Green 33
6:00 PM ET Marshall Northern Illinois 9:30 PM ET Navy San Diego State
12:00 PM ET Central Michigan Western Kentucky 8:00 PM ET Fresno State Rice
1:00 PM ET Illinois Louisiana Tech 4:30 PM ET Rutgers North Carolina 8:00 PM ET North Carolina State UCF
1:00 PM ET Cincinnati Virginia Tech 2:00 PM ET 15 Arizona State Duke 3:30 PM ET Miami (FL) South Carolina 4:30 PM ET Boston College Penn State 8:00 PM ET Nebraska 24 USC
2:00 PM ET Texas A&M West Virginia 5:30 PM ET Oklahoma 17 Clemson 9:00 PM ET Arkansas Texas
3:00 PM ET Notre Dame 23 LSU 6:30 PM ET 13 Georgia 21 Louisville 10:00 PM ET Maryland Stanford
12:30 PM ET 9 Ole Miss 6 TCU 4:00 PM ET 20 Boise State 10 Arizona 8:00 PM ET 7 Mississippi State 12 Georgia Tech
12:00 PM ET 19 Auburn 18 Wisconsin 12:30 PM ET 8 Michigan State 5 Baylor 1:00 PM ET 16 Missouri 25 Minnesota 5:00 PM ET 2 Oregon 3 Florida State 8:30 PM ET 1 Alabama 4 Ohio State
12:00 PM ET Houston Pittsburgh 3:20 PM ET Iowa Tennessee 6:45 PM ET 11 Kansas State 14 UCLA 10:15 PM ET Washington Oklahoma State