Mark Dantonio Steps Down as Coach at Michigan State: 'My Family Must Now Become My Priority'


Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio announced his retirement Tuesday, ending a 13-year run in which he guided the Spartans to heights they hadn’t reached in decades.

Dantonio went 114-57 as Michigan State‘s coach and won Big Ten titles in 2010, 2013 and 2015. The last of those three seasons included a trip to the College Football Playoff, but the Spartans declined after that. They went 7-6 this past season.

The 63-year-old Texan called his decision a difficult one while noting the nonstop demands of the job.

“I will miss it all but feel the sacrifices that I have made away from my family must now become my priority at this time in my life,” said Dantonio, who added that he still plans to have a role within the athletic department.

Defensive coordinator Mike Tressel will be the acting head coach while Michigan State seeks a replacement for Dantonio.

The Spartans have fallen from the Big Ten’s elite in recent years, but only after Dantonio brought Michigan State to the top echelon of the league — and the nation — during a terrific stretch from 2010 to 2015.

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A turning point in his tenure occurred in 2010, when the Spartans memorably beat Notre Dame on a fake field goal in overtime.

Dantonio had a heart attack in the immediate aftermath of that victory, but he returned to coach his team soon after that and led Michigan State to a share of the Big Ten title.

The Spartans went to the conference title game three of the next five years after that, winning it twice.

Michigan State also dominated its heated rivalry with Michigan for much of Dantonio’s tenure.

In 2007, his first season at the helm, the Spartans lost to the Wolverines. Afterward, Michigan’s Mike Hart referred to Michigan State as a little brother.

Dantonio responded by warning the Wolverines that “pride comes before the fall” — and the Spartans won four straight meetings after that.

Even after losing to Michigan the last two seasons, Dantonio ended up going 8-5 against the Wolverines.

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“Mark Dantonio has provided outstanding leadership for the Spartan football program for the last 13 years,” athletic director Bill Beekman said.

Some suggested allegations by former Spartan staffer Curtis Blackwell of NCAA violations might be behind Dantonio’s decision.

Beekman didn’t mention that in his statement as he praised Dantonio’s leadership on and off the field.

“As the all-time winningest coach in school history, he’s raised the bar for Michigan State football,” Beekman said. “He’s mentored young men and led them to success on the field, in the classroom and in life, while serving as a great ambassador for Michigan State.”

Beekman became athletic director in 2018 amid the fallout from the Larry Nassar scandal. Mark Hollis, the previous AD, had retired following the sex abuse scandal involving Nassar, a former MSU doctor who also worked for USA Gymnastics.

Hollis’ departure came just before ESPN reported allegations of sexual assault and violence against women involving Michigan State football and basketball players. The report questioned how the athletic department handled those cases.

In 2017, three players were dismissed from the football team after criminal sexual conduct charges were brought against them, and another player was dismissed after a separate criminal sexual conduct charge against him.

A report from an external law firm found no evidence that Dantonio violated school policy on handling sexual misconduct.

The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.

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