It was an instantly telling indictment.
After leading the entire afternoon against Iowa on Oct. 13, the MSU football team (5-5 overall, 2-4 Big Ten) had lost the lead, was headed to overtime and had now lost the coin toss.
With all of the momentum favoring the Hawkeyes, MSU head coach Mark Dantonio made what would normally be a surprising decision. He elected to play the overtime period in the end zone away from the student section because the Spartans needed as much support as possible and looking at a section about a quarter full didn’t inspire intimidation.
The student section’s lack of attendance at home games has become nothing short of embarrassing, reaching an especially humiliating low in that double-overtime loss to Iowa more than three weeks ago and continuing last Saturday with an equally unimpressive showing in a last-second loss to No. 18 Nebraska.
At his weekly press conference following the Iowa game, Dantonio said he understood fan frustrations, but was most concerned with dealing with his football team and the fans who chose to attend the game.
“I appreciate the support that we get. I think that far outnumbers the other aspect of it,” Dantonio said.
“It’s a fickle society. There are a lot of things going on in a lot of people’s worlds. Football is not the end game for a lot of people, and that’s OK.”
But MSU men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo wasn’t as apologetic for the fans’ most recent show of apathy. On Monday, he demanded greater accountability among students to solve a growing problem.
“It disappoints me for Mark (Dantonio) because I think he’s earned the right, and I do think it is a right,” Izzo said. “You can tell me about the ticket prices. You can tell me all the baloney, because the tickets are sold. It’s not about the ticket prices. It’s about the passion and the enthusiasm.
“But I know one thing, if they don’t want to be there, we’ll find ways to get people there. Give me the tickets; I’ll get people there.”
You can claim the empty seats have to do with this team’s uneven play, but it only has lost one game by more than four points, with nearly every game coming down to the wire.
You can claim the weather hasn’t been ideal, but it’s Michigan in November — there aren’t any surprises.
You can claim the team hasn’t lived up to the lofty standards it set the past two seasons, except rows of empty seats were still a problem as the Spartans reeled off back-to-back 11-win seasons for the first time in program history.
The laziness of the excuses have grown tiresome.
Izzo said it’s about student-to-student accountability, and with a week between games, there’s one final chance for the students to stand up, respect their school and never has stopped playing hard as the losses have mounted.
There’s a chance to show commitment to a football coach who’s taken this program to levels it hasn’t seen in 25 years.
And there’s a final shot at redemption for a student section that has taken for granted the alumni who sat through seasons far worse than this one each of their four years on campus and would have killed for the chance to simply dream of a Rose Bowl.
The solution is simple: Have some personal pride, show up and cheer.
Be a Spartan and end the excuses.
Josh Mansour is a State News football reporter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.