It's no secret that Tom Izzo loves football.
He has had his Michigan State basketball players put on football pads for basketball practice. His best friend is former college and pro football coach Steve Mariucci, who calls Izzo "a football guy at heart." From how he studies film to how he wants his basketball teams to play, Izzo's ties to football are obvious.
When I went to East Lansing in 2009 to write about the newfound stability in Michigan State's football program, I made sure to talk to Izzo. He was my best source for the story.
How much does Izzo love football?
Michigan State on Monday announced it has received a $1 million gift from Izzo and his wife, Lupe. The majority of the Izzo family pledge will head toward Michigan State's football program.
According to the school, the Izzo gift will go toward endowing scholarships for football as well as capital projects for the program.
"Supporting the football team was an easy decision," Izzo said in a prepared statement. "Coach [Mark] Dantonio is a man of character, building a championship program. But what makes football special is that it truly benefits everyone across the university. Spearheaded by football's success, there is great momentum throughout all programs."
Dantonio has to be loving life these days. Last week, he received a revised contract, designed like Izzo's to keep him a "Spartan for life."
Now comes a gift from the man who runs Michigan State's flagship athletic program. While most outsiders identify Michigan State as a basketball school because of the success under Izzo and Jud Heathcote, Michigan State fans are firm in their belief that MSU is a football school.
Izzo clearly agrees, and his message has reached Dantonio.
"Tom and Lupe Izzo are great ambassadors for Michigan State University, and they believe in the role intercollegiate athletics play in the educational experience," Dantonio said in a statement. "As we all know, Tom has a tremendous passion for football, and we're extremely grateful for his family's financial support. He has been and will continue to be a great leader and role model for all Michigan State coaches.”
If Ohio State has a coaching vacancy at the end of the year, Dantonio's name will be mentioned as a candidate because of his ties to the school and to the state. But Dantonio is clearly in a great situation at Michigan State, which has made significant commitments both to him and to the program in recent years.