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Dantonio’s heart attack sparks talk of job’s stress

September 21, 2010

Mark Dantonio

As MSU head coach Mark Dantonio recovers at home from his Sunday heart attack, many people in the college football world are discussing the stress that comes with coaching a major college football program.

Dantonio was released from Lansing’s Sparrow Hospital at about 3 p.m. Tuesday, two days after undergoing a heart procedure Sunday morning, according to MSU Athletics Communications. The coach suffered a heart attack shortly after the No. 25 MSU football team’s 34-31 overtime win against Notre Dame.

Dantonio said in a statement released Tuesday that he is excited to be home with his family and is now focusing on recovering. The amount of support he has received has been both overwhelming and comforting, he said.

“It’s impossible for me to express just how much the support and encouragement means to me and my family,” he said in the statement.

Junior quarterback Kirk Cousins said his grandfather died from a heart attack, and he talked to Dantonio about it.

“It was shocking,” Cousins said of Dantonio’s heart attack. “It definitely caught us off guard because he takes such good care of his body.” 

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle was a major topic of discussion at the Big Ten Football Coaches’ teleconference Tuesday, as coaches talked about the toll the job takes on them.

“Coaches in Division I are like public officials or administrators … they’re always on the job,” Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez said during the teleconference.

Rodriguez says he tries to take care of his body, eat well and get sleep, but even that isn’t always enough. He said, however, that coaches know what they’re getting into before they start their positions, which helps them take solid care.

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said he tries to balance hours as best as possible when he works, but that in-season duties usually make it difficult to get time off.

“I try to exercise and get as much rest as I can,” Tressel said during the teleconference. “There’s always something I have to do and I never have enough time.”

He said Dantonio’s heart attack serves as a reminder that coaches need to take care of their health beside coaching football.

In December, Florida head coach Urban Meyer announced he was stepping down as the Gators’ head coach after suffering from chest pains. Shortly after, he announced he was taking a break from coaching, and then found out the issue was related to his esophagus.

Meyer is back on the sidelines, but his health concerns are another reminder about the stress of coaching.

MSU football team physician Randy Pearson said that although stress is one of the factors related to heart problems, several others — such as personal and family history — and unknown factors contribute as well.

“You need to have balance,” Pearson said. “Maintain balance, relax and exercising regularly.”

Dantonio said in the statement that he hasn’t set a timeline for his return to the sidelines and knows he has to work his way back gradually. Athletics officials said Sunday he will not coach in this weekend’s game against Northern Colorado (noon, Big Ten Network).

“I have the utmost confidence in Coach Treadwell and the rest of the coaching staff to carry on with business as usual in my absence,” Dantonio said in the statement.

Players also said they don’t believe Dantonio’s absence will hinder the team.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a distraction,” senior linebacker Greg Jones said. “If anything, it will just help us come together.”

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