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Monday, November 27, 2006
Michigan State hires former Cincy coach Dantonio

Associated Press

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Mark Dantonio is back with the Michigan State football program. This time, he's in charge and he has much flashier jewelry.

Mark Dantonio: Coaching Highlights
Mark Dantonio
• Has coached at Ohio, Purdue, Ohio State, Akron, Youngstown State, Michigan State, and Cincinnati.

• Coached under Jim Tressel at Youngstown State and was defensive coordinator during the team's 11-0 regular season in 1990.

• Secondary coach at Michigan State from 1995-2000.

• Defensive coordinator under Tressel from 2001-2003 at Ohio State, including the Buckeyes' 2002 national championship season.

• Named head coach at Cincinnati on Dec. 23, 2003.

• In first season as head coach, Bearcats went 7-5 and beat Marshall 32-14 in the Fort Worth Bowl in 2004.

• Bearcats upset No. 7 Rutgers on Nov. 18, the highest ranked team Cincinnati has ever beaten.

• Finished the 2006 regular season bowl-eligible at 7-5 overall and 5-3 in the Big East.

Source -- University of Cincinnati official athletic Web site

Dantonio, an assistant with the program from 1995-00 and the Cincinnati head coach the past three seasons, was hired Monday as the Spartans' coach. At his introduction, he displayed the 2002 championship ring he won as Ohio State's defensive coordinator.

"I wear this championship ring very, very few times, but I wear it for a reason," Dantonio said. "I wear it to symbolize what can happen when you have the resources, when you have the players, and most importantly when you have the commitment."

He succeeds John L. Smith, who was fired before completing his fourth season in East Lansing. He finished with a 22-26 record. Michigan State finished 4-8 this year and has missed out on a bowl trip three straight seasons for the first time since the early 1980s.

Dantonio becomes the ninth Michigan State coach since Duffy Daugherty left after the 1972 season. Michigan State is barely above .500 since and has won eight or more games in consecutive seasons just once, with one Rose Bowl appearance.

Mark Dantonio was on the staffs of Nick Saban and Bobby Williams. Now he's running the show at Michigan State.

Dantonio inherits a team that has struggled on the field and in recruiting battles with nearby powerhouses Michigan, Ohio State and Notre Dame.

"If you have an opportunity to compete against the best, you can become the best," Dantonio said. "You have the opportunity to measure up."

The Michigan State Board of Trustees on Monday unanimously approved president Lou Anna Simon's recommendation to hire Dantonio. The five-year contract guarantees him about $1.1 million a year, on the lower end of the Big Ten pay scale. The contract also has a $200,000 signing bonus and incentives.

The 50-year-old Dantonio had an 18-17 record at Cincinnati, including a win over previously unbeaten Rutgers this month. The Big East school is awaiting a bowl bid, but Dantonio wouldn't coach that game. Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi was appointed Cincinnati's interim head coach Monday.

Dantonio has a defensive coaching background and extensive recruiting experience in the Midwest, two trouble spots for the Spartans under Smith.

Dantonio spent six seasons as a Michigan State assistant under Nick Saban and Bobby Williams before becoming Ohio State's defensive coordinator under Jim Tressel.

Michigan State waited until Cincinnati finished its regular season to interview Dantonio. That happened Saturday night with a contingent including basketball coach Tom Izzo. Simon followed up with a Sunday morning meeting, and they had a contract by Sunday night.

Dantonio received a warm welcome at Michigan State's athletics offices, where many of the same people he knew from his stay in the late 1990s still work.

"I think they did a great job of picking a great guy," linebacker Kaleb Thornhill said.

Other possible candidates included Miami Dolphins assistant Charlie Baggett, Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, LSU defensive coordinator Bo Pelini, Central Michigan coach Brian Kelly and Philadelphia Eagles assistant Pat Shurmur.

Dantonio is from Ohio and has spent much of his coaching career in the Midwest. Smith came from Louisville and previously coached mostly at schools in the western half of the country.

"He is a person who understands the landscape," Michigan State trustee Joel Ferguson said.

Dantonio became the first coach at Cincinnati to have a winning record in his first season. He had seven wins, including a victory over Marshall in the Fort Worth Bowl. After taking a step back with a 4-7 record in 2005 with an inexperienced team, Dantonio led Cincinnati to another solid season this year.