It’s time – past time, in fact.
Mark Dantonio is the unquestioned greatest coach in Spartans history, taking a football program that was once an afterthought in the state of Michigan to levels that fans, students, and alumni once never thought possible.
Those debts can never be repaid, and when it’s all said and done, he’ll have his statue outside of Spartan Stadium. Maybe even a campus venue or two named after him. But for the overall wellbeing of the Spartans football program, it’s time for him to call it a career.
Now, many will argue that Dantonio has earned the right to stay as long as he likes, or to dictate how and when he ultimately steps aside.
Of course, his accomplishments are hard to argue. The winningest coach in school history that’s taken down the hated Michigan Wolverines eight times in 13 years. The coach that led the team to a Rose Bowl win in 2014. The coach that led the Spartans to their first ever College Football Playoff berth. And the first head coach in Big Ten history to win at least 11 games in five of six seasons.
He’s also the coach who’s notoriously stubborn and has demonstrated a lack of willingness to adapt. The struggling offense didn’t get any help when Dantonio elected to shuffle the staff positions. He moved Dave Warner from offensive coordinator to quarterback coach, co-offensive coordinator Jim Bollman to offensive line coach and promoted Brad Salem from running backs coach up to offensive coordinator.
What did all of those moves change? Absolutely nothing. The Spartans were among college football’s worst squads on the offensive side of the ball, and things are no different this year. What’s worse, Dantonio made his obstinance absolutely clear following October’s 38-0 debacle against Wisconsin, insulting the question a reporter asked about the lack of changes to the offensive staff.
“I think that’s sort of a dumb-ass question to be quite honest with you,” he scoffed.
The simple fact is that through these actions and the absolute unwillingness to change, Dantonio has put himself over the good of the program. And fans desiring to see meaningful changes may have to wait longer with today’s announcement from Dantonio that he fully intends to be coaching the team next season.
There is no doubt that Dantonio has led Michigan State Football to their greatest successes, and he deserves to be remembered reverently for doing so. But every coach has a shelf life. The current product is stale, and fans can only remember the past so much before wanting to experience it again – and not in the form of re-watching their old Rose Bowl season DVDs for the hundredth time.
For the good of Michigan State Football, Dantonio needs to step down at the end of the year. Retire gracefully and enjoy life – and allow new and exciting minds to take over the program you live and die for.