Mark Dantonio Steps Down. Who will step up?

I correctly read the tea leaves…

Mark Dantonio took over a dismal program that won just 39 games in 7 seasons prior to his arrival, yet thereafter Mark Dantonio climbed an improbable mountain by winning 115 games, 6 bowl games, 4 division titles, 3 Big Ten titles and earned an invitation to the coveted College Football Playoff.

Yet, the landscape has changed.

After LSU beat Clemson to win the National Championship, whereby LSU posted an eye glazing 628 Yards, I wrote LSU’s Offensive production underscored just how far Michigan State’s Offense had fallen below the best in the land. It further underscored that Michigan State needed to execute changes to their Offensive staff to regain competitive footing. After all, LSU averaged nearly 570 Yards per game during the 2019 season while the Spartans averaged just 370 Yards.

It’s important to note, the best Offenses in the land were averaging more than 45 points per game in 2019, while the Spartans Offense was painfully inconsistent, averaging a meager 22 points per game, ranked in the bottom 15 percentile of 130 D-1 Schools and ranked #112 in terms of Red Zone Scoring.

Offensively, it wasn’t a one year swoon: the Spartans Offense hasn’t averaged more than 25 points per game since 2015, so clearly changes were needed, but did Mark Dantonio have an appetite to make changes and correct course?

I pointed out in early January that the most obvious time to make staff changes was prior to the Bowl season inasmuch as the emphasis should be upon future improvement and not necessarily upon winning a low tier Bowl Game, yet no changes were made. Of course, the next best time to execute staff changes was within a week after the Bowl game, and yet no changes.

So, from my perspective, as someone who was immersed in organizational dynamics during my 35 year corporate career (whereby I learned to read the tea leaves if you will), it was obvious to me that Mark Dantonio did not have an appetite to execute staff changes amongst a cadre of coaches for whom he had associations going back to his days at Ohio State nearly 20 years ago.

That’s understandable: needless to say, it’s tough business informing staff member who helped climb the mountain and collect trophies that their services are no longer needed. And so, Mark Dantonio took another tack: he stepped down.

So, what’s next?

Apparently, Mark Dantonio will stay on in the Athletic Department and from the perspective of organizational continuity, that’s a good thing.

I trust Mark Dantonio will be instrumental in searching and hiring a new coach. Who will that coach be? The Spartans need to embark upon a coherent search and due to timing, it might make sense to appoint an interim coach (ala Ohio State whereby Luke Fickell took over for Jim Tressel) and thereafter set about to hire the best coaching candidate for the 2021 season.

At any measure, Bill Beekman will benefit from the input of Mark Dantonio. After all, Bill Beekman has degrees in Business and Law, and while he is a brilliant administrator within the University, he is by all measures inexperienced as a professional Athletic Director, and hiring championship coaches is not for the inexperienced or faint of heart.

At the bottom line: there is lots of unfounded hysteria.

I have read some nonsensical commentary that Michigan State is neither a glamorous job, or a desirable destination, to which I say…that’s NONSENSICAL BS.

In terms or resources and facilities, Michigan State is amongst the best in the land. Ask any coach in the country. And Spartan Stadium is considered one of the most intimidating venues for visiting teams to play, so there will be plenty of interest, yet Michigan State needs to conduct a coherent search…but to hire the best coach, Michigan State needs to determine “who do we want to be?”.

Hopefully, the Spartans will never engage in “winning at all costs” but compensation for Assistant Coaches needs to come into the 21st Century. By all measures, current compensation for assistant coaches is below the curve.

And football has changed: 3 yards and a cloud of dust no longer exists and elements of the “Spread” have taken over the game.

Relying upon a dominating Defense to control the game until the Offense scores enough points to win is an outdated model and the Spartans Offense must evolve into the 21st Century. As noted, the Spartans ranked #105 amongst 130 D-1 Schools in terms of Scoring Offense, averaging just 22 Points per game. Yet when measured in Big Ten competition, the Spartans Offense averaged a dismal 19.8 Points per game, and only 3 Big Ten schools scored less. That has to change!

At the bottom line, the numbers don’t lie, and the numbers tell us to return to Championship contention, the Spartans must deploy a 21st Century Offensive philosophy. Mark Dantonio needed to change a good portion of his staff to enable Spartan Football to evolve and stay abreast of scouting, recruiting, player development and scheme.

So, at the bottom line, It’s better to close the book and step down with one’s integrity intact and one’s head held high…and Mark Dantonio can do that. And now we look to Michigan State President, Samuel Stanley, AD, Bill Beekman and Mark Dantonio to write the next Championship Chapter. The late John Hannah and Biggie Munn will be watching.