Mark Dantonio is officially back with Michigan State football as an Associate Head Coach, a role he once held during his first stint with the Spartans. With the return of one of the greatest MSU football coaches of all time, let’s take a look at both of Dantonio’s timelines with the green and white over his 17-year Spartan coaching career.
1995-2001 (Defensive Secondary Coach/Associate Head Coach)
In Dantonio’s first six years, he spent five of them under current Alabama coach Nick Saban and one under Bobby Williams. The secondary ranked among some of the best in the NCAA during his time supervising the unit, finishing in the top 25 in pass efficiency defense from 1998-2000, capping off the 1998 season as high as 10th (101.6). During his last season in that position, his corners and safeties only allowed 164.1 passing yards a game, ranking seventh in the entire country.
The Spartans saw the most success with him as a defensive back coach in 1999 though, finishing the season with a 10-2 record, leading the Big Ten in total defense, winning the Citrus Bowl and finishing as the seventh best team overall.
Dantonio took over as an Associate Head Coach for one season before heading to Ohio State where he won a National Championship shortly after in 2002.
Over his first six year stint as an assistant for Michigan State, he compiled a 39-30-1 record.
2007-2019 (Head Coach)
Dantonio was brought back to East Lansing just six years later, but this time as the head man. MSU saw immediate improvement in his first three seasons in his new role, sparked by a three game turnaround in 2007. The team appeared in a bowl game in each of those three seasons, but lost all of them.
2010 was the start of Dantonio’s historic run, marked by a 11-2 record and a Big Ten Championship. Bowl success would come after this season for the Spartans though, as they got trounced by Alabama in the Citrus Bowl in 2011.
The next year, MSU would go on to win the Outback Bowl led by current Minnesota Viking quarterback Kirk Cousins. They also claimed the Big Ten Legends Division Championship before the conference East/West model was put in place.
The Spartans would suffer a setback but still come out with a Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl win in 2013, followed by a historically dominant three year span.
From 2013-2016, Dantonio led the Spartans to their fourth ever Rose Bowl victory and first since 1988, a Cotton Bowl victory, two Big Ten Championships and the school’s only College Football Playoff appearance. The green and white finished as high as third overall in the nation during the run, and only as low as sixth.
After a deflating 3-9 year following the blowout loss to Alabama in the Playoff, Dantonio had one last double digit win season in him in 2017, leading MSU to a Holiday Bowl victory. He then resigned in February of 2020 after two seven win seasons, highlighted by a PinStripe Bowl victory.
With the suspension of Mel Tucker and a lot of uncertainties with the future leadership of the program, Dantonio offers a steady hand and loads of experience with the program and the university itself, which will be desperately needed in a season that offers no guaranteed wins. Dantonio will either be on the sidelines or in the coaches box come Saturday when No. 8 Washington comes to town for the Spartans first real test of the season.