Dantonio at Delta Charter Township, Michigan in 2010
March 9, 1956 |
El Paso, Texas
|Coaching career (HC unless noted)|
|1982||Butler CC (DC)|
|1983–1984||Ohio State (GA)|
|1986–1990||Youngstown State (DC)|
|1995–2000||Michigan State (DB)|
|2001–2003||Ohio State (DC)|
|Head coaching record|
|Accomplishments and honors|
|2 Big Ten (2010, 2013)
2 Big Ten Legends Division (2011, 2013)
2x Big Ten Coach of the Year (2010, 2013)The Bugle Sports Hall of Fame (2012)
Mark Justin Dantonio (born March 9, 1956) is an American football coach and former player. He is the current head football coach at Michigan State University, a position he has held since the 2007 season, presiding over one of the most successful eras in the program's history. He led the Michigan State Spartans to four seasons of 11 or more wins, two Big Ten Conference championships, and six victories over rival Michigan in seven years. In 2013, he coached Michigan State to its first 13-win season and the program's fifth trip to the Rose Bowl, where they defeated Stanford and finished the season ranked #3 in the nation. This was only the second time a Big Ten team had reached the 13-win mark, the other being Ohio State's national championship season in 2002, where Dantonio was the defensive coordinator. The 2013 season also marked the first time a Big Ten team won nine conference games by double digits in each contest.
In 2006, Dantonio was hired as the Spartans head coach, returning to the school where he had previously served six years as an assistant coach under Nick Saban and Bobby Williams. Known as a defensive-minded coach, Dantonio has compiled a 75-31 record at Michigan State, giving him a .708 winning percentage, the highest of any Michigan State football coach since that of Clarence Munn, who coached the Spartans from 1947 to 1953. During his tenure the Spartans have won the school's first bowl game since 2001 in the 2012 Outback Bowl and the school's first Rose Bowl since 1988 in 2014. Dantonio's Spartans hold active school records with 8 consecutive bowl appearances and 4 consecutive bowl wins. On October 8, 2011, Dantonio signed a contract extension that made him a "Spartan for life."  In 2014, he earned the second highest salary among college football coaches, due largely to a retention bonus.
- 1 Early life
- 2 College career
- 3 Early coaching career
- 4 Defensive coordinator at Ohio State
- 5 Head coach at Cincinnati
- 6 Head coach at Michigan State
- 7 Personal life
- 8 Coaching tree
- 9 Notable quotes
- 10 Head coaching record
- 11 References
- 12 External links
Dantonio was born in El Paso, Texas, where his father, Justin, was a teacher and where Justin met and married Mark's mother, Maryan. Mark was the second of four boys. When Mark was one, the family moved to Zanesville, Ohio, where Justin became the vice principal and basketball coach at Zanesville High School. Mark was an all-state safety at Zanesville.
Dantonio attended the University of South Carolina and earned three letters as a defensive back for Coach Jim Carlen for the Gamecocks 1976-78. He earned a bachelor's degree in education from South Carolina in 1979. Dantonio later earned a master's degree in education from Ohio University in 1980.
Early coaching career
Dantonio began his coaching career at Ohio University, where he was a graduate assistant. In 1981, he made his first stop in the Big Ten Conference when he moved on to Purdue University as a graduate assistant. He spent two years, in 1983 and 1984, as a graduate assistant at Ohio State University under head coach Earle Bruce. In 1986, he began a five-year stint on Jim Tressel's staff at Youngstown State University as a defensive secondary coach. In 1990, Dantonio led the Penguins' defense to an 11–0 record and a #2 ranking nationally. Glen Mason hired Dantonio in 1991 to be the defensive secondary coach for the Kansas Jayhawks. When Nick Saban was hired at Michigan State in 1995, he hired Dantonio to join his staff in East Lansing where he remained even after Saban left for LSU. After Bobby Williams was named head coach in 1999 following Saban's departure, Dantonio was promoted to associate head coach where he remained through the 2000 season.
Defensive coordinator at Ohio State
In 2001, Dantonio reunited with his former Youngstown State boss and good friend Jim Tressel when he opted out of East Lansing to serve as defensive coordinator at Ohio State University for three seasons. His defense became known as one of the stingiest in the country. During the Buckeyes' 2002 National Championship season, Ohio State ranked second nationally in scoring defense and third in rushing defense. In the 2003 season, his defense ranked number one in the country in rushing defense and ninth in total defense, which led the Buckeyes to an 11–2 record and #4 national ranking. Six Buckeye defenders were named first team All-Big Ten during Dantonio's tenure. Thirteen were drafted into the NFL, including two first round picks in Chris Gamble and Will Smith.
Head coach at Cincinnati
Dantonio was named head coach at Cincinnati on December 23, 2003. He became the first head coach in 23 years to lead the school to a winning season in his first season at UC. The Bearcats' 7–5 record included a 5–3 record in Conference USA, which was good enough for a second-place finish. The Bearcats finished the season on a winning note with a 32–14 win over Marshall in the PlainsCapital Fort Worth Bowl. During Dantonio’s time at UC, he led the Bearcats to a bowl game victory and directed the team's transition into the Big East Conference. As head coach, Dantonio had 15 players earn all-conference honors and 25 received conference academic recognition.
Head coach at Michigan State
Mark Dantonio became the 24th head coach at Michigan State on November 27, 2006. Upon his arrival, Dantonio planned to return MSU to a more traditional philosophy on offense and defense, eliminating the spread offense and the "bandit" linebacker/safety position used under previous head coach John L. Smith.
Dantonio began his MSU career well at Spartan Stadium when on April 21, 2007, Michigan State drew over 25,000 fans to watch the team's spring scrimmage game. The white team, led by sophomore quarterback Connor Dixon, defeated junior quarterback Brian Hoyer and the green team by a score of 21–8. During the game, Dantonio was seen behind the line of scrimmage watching and coaching the action.
Dantonio won his first game at Michigan State on September 1, 2007, when the Spartans defeated the UAB Blazers, 55–18. His first season at Michigan State was the school's most successful since 2003. Dantonio's Spartans went 7–5, losing all five games by seven points or fewer, and were bowl eligible for the first time in four years. However, the Spartans lost to Boston College in the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando on December 28.
Dantonio's second season at MSU began with a loss at Cal, after which the Spartans came home and won six straight games against Eastern Michigan, Florida Atlantic, Notre Dame, Indiana, Iowa, and Northwestern. The victories propelled Michigan State into the top 25. Following a lopsided 45–7 loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes, the Spartans beat Michigan, 35–21, in Ann Arbor for the first time since 1990. Michigan State won its final two home games against Wisconsin and Purdue before losing to Penn State in Happy Valley. A win against Penn State would have resulted in Michigan State splitting the Big Ten Conference title with Ohio State. The nine regular season wins were Michigan State's most since 1999. Michigan State finished third in the conference and was invited to play Georgia in the Capital One Bowl. Michigan State lost the game, 24–12, finishing the season 9–4.
Dantonio's third season, 2009, was disappointing in performance and off-the-field issues. The team lost five games (Central Michigan, at Notre Dame, Iowa, at Minnesota, Texas Tech) in which they held the lead in the fourth quarter, leading to a disappointing 6-7 record. Off the field, at the beginning of the season, Dantonio received criticism for immediately reinstating a player, Glenn Winston, who had served four months in jail for assault. A few months later in the season, 13 players (and former players) were reportedly part of an assault at Rather Hall on campus, leading to charges being filed against nine MSU football players.
On September 19, 2010, just hours after a stunning fake field goal touchdown pass gave MSU a 34-31 overtime victory over Notre Dame, Dantonio checked himself into a hospital after noticing chest pains. He later suffered a heart attack. He had a stent implanted in a blocked artery near his heart. His doctor stated that the damage was minimal and that Dantonio was expected to make a full recovery. Offensive coordinator Don Treadwell became acting head coach while Dantonio recovered.
On September 30, after Dantonio had stated that he would be coaching the next game from the press box and just two days before Michigan State played Wisconsin, Dantonio was admitted back into the hospital as a blood clot was found in his leg. Dantonio had to watch the game from his hospital room. He was reportedly released from Sparrow Hospital around noon on October 4, 2010. On October 9, Dantonio coached his first game since his heart attack against rival Michigan. Michigan State won the game, 34–17, in Ann Arbor.
The Spartans under Dantonio continued to win and on November 20 reached 10-1 on the season, winning all home games for the first time during his tenure. It was just the third time in school history that Michigan State had won 10 or more games in a season, the other two seasons being those of 1965 and 1999. On November 27, 2010, Dantonio's Spartans defeated Penn State 28-22 in Happy Valley to finish the season 11-1 and clinch a share of the Big Ten Championship for the first time since 1990. On December 5, 2010, MSU announced that the Spartans were selected to play in the Capital One Bowl on January 1, 2011, against Alabama (ranked 15th in the BCS standings). The Spartans lost to the Crimson Tide 49-7 and finished 11-2.
In 2011, Michigan State had another successful year. The Spartans beat the Ohio State Buckeyes on the road for the first time since 1998, defeated arch-rival Michigan, and upset #6 Wisconsin on a last-second Hail Mary pass from Kirk Cousins to Keith Nichol. The Spartans finished 10-2 (7-1 in Big Ten play), earning the Legends Division championship and a place in the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game. After coming up just short in a rematch with Wisconsin, MSU was selected to play in the Outback Bowl against the Georgia Bulldogs. Dantonio led his team to a triple-overtime victory, his first bowl win at MSU. The Spartans reached the 11-win mark for the second straight season, finishing 11-3.
In 2013, Dantonio's team finished 11-1 in the regular season, including notable victories over Michigan (29-6) and Nebraska (41-28) to secure the third and final Legends Division title. On December 7, 2013, Michigan State, ranked #10 at the time of the game, defeated second-ranked Ohio State 34-24 in the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis. The win snapped Ohio State's 24-game winning streak and sent Michigan State to its first Rose Bowl since the 1987-88 season. Michigan State was ranked #4 in the final BCS standings, its highest rank since the BCS's inception. The Spartans defeated the fifth-ranked Stanford Cardinal 24-20 in the 100th Rose Bowl Game on January 1, 2014. Dantonio was named Big Ten Football Coach of the Year.
In 2014, the Spartans finished the regular season 10-2, finishing second in the East division with a 7-1 record and ranked #8 in the nation. After losing to third-ranked Oregon in the season's second game, the Spartans reeled off nine wins in their next 10 games. The Spartans earned a bid to the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic, part of the New Year's Six bowls, and rallied from 20 points down in the fourth quarter to defeat fifth-ranked Baylor 42-41 to finish the season with an overall record of 11-2 (the two losses coming from the two teams that would play in the 2015 College Football Playoff National Championship). After the game, Dantonio said "It's a feeling of belief in each other, and that's what we have. We don't give up on each other. Consequently, they don't give up in the game. We just keep playing hard. And that's what we've been able to accomplish." 
Mark Dantonio married his wife, Becky, in 1990. They have two daughters, Kristen and Lauren. He is a devout Catholic.
He is an alligator enthusiast and brought one out onto the practice field during the 2011 season prior to the Outback Bowl where a handler was mauled.
- Jim Young, Purdue
- Jim Dennison, Akron
- Earle Bruce, Ohio State
- Jim Tressel, Youngstown State and Ohio State
- Glen Mason, Kansas
- Nick Saban, Michigan State
Former assistants who became NCAA Division I FBS head coaches:
- "I'll tell you how you sum up the moment. You're going to be able to come back here and see Michigan State up there winning on that plaque outside this Rose Bowl 50 years from now with your grandchildren. That's what you're going to be able to do." (quoted after winning the 2014 Rose Bowl Game).
- "You will be the ones" (Referring to his 2013 players who 'will be the ones' to take Michigan State to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1988) 
- "We came here with an idea that we were going to have to weather the storm or be the storm." (After a 37-21 victory over Iowa, the Spartans' first win at Kinnick Stadium since 1989.)
- "We're laying in the weeds. We've beat Michigan the last four years. So where's the threat?" 
Head coaching record
|Cincinnati Bearcats (Conference USA) (2004)|
|2004||Cincinnati||7–5||5–3||2nd||W Fort Worth|
|Cincinnati Bearcats (Big East Conference) (2005–2006)|
|Cincinnati:||18–17||11–11||*Departed Cincinnati for Michigan State before the Bowl|
|Michigan State Spartans (Big Ten Conference) (2007–present)|
|2007||Michigan State||7–6||3–5||T–7th||L Champs Sports|
|2008||Michigan State||9–4||6–2||3rd||L Capital One||24||24|
|2009||Michigan State||6–7||4–4||T–6th||L Alamo|
|2010||Michigan State||11–2||7–1||T–1st||L Capital One||14||14|
|2011||Michigan State||11–3||7–1||1st (Legends)||W Outback||10||11|
|2012||Michigan State||7–6||3–5||4th (Legends)||W Buffalo Wild Wings|
|2013||Michigan State||13–1||8–0||1st (Legends)||W Rose†||3||3|
|2014||Michigan State||11–2||7–1||2nd (East)||W Cotton†||5||5|
|National championship Conference title Conference division title|
|†Indicates Bowl Coalition, Bowl Alliance, BCS, or CFP / New Years' Six bowl.
#Rankings from final Coaches Poll.
°Rankings from final AP Poll.
- Rexrode, Joe (December 8, 2013). "The Detroit Free Press". Detroit, Michigan: The Detroit Free Press. p. D1.
- New contract for Michigan State Spartans coach Mark Dantonio makes him 'Spartan for life' - ESPN
- Rexrode, Joe. "Inside the Deal". Lansing State Journal. November 28, 2006. http://www.lansingstatejournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2006611280334 Accessed March 13, 2007
- Associated Press. "Dantonio presides over first spring game as Michigan State coach". Sporting News. April 21, 2007. http://www.sportingnews.com/yourturn/viewtopic.php?t=199429 Accessed July 10, 2007
- Associated Press. "Spartans 55, Blazers 18." ESPN. September 1, 2007 http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/recap?gameId=272440127
- Associated Press. "Ryan, Gunnell help BC extend bowl winning streak to eight". ESPN. December 28, 2007. http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/recap?gameId=273620127
- Press Conference. "Big Ten Champions Accept Invitation from Capital One Bowl" "Michigan State Spartans" East Lansing, 5 December 2010. Retrieved 2010-12-5.
- Mark Dantonio Profile - Michigan State Official Athletic Site
- Mark Dantonio Profile - GoBEARCATS.com - The Official Athletics Website of the University of Cincinnati
- Coach's game plan is X's, O's of life: Terry Pluto | cleveland.com
- Ability to Spot Talent
- Link to Jim Tressel means Michigan State's Mark Dantonio not a good fit at Ohio State | MLive.com
- As more coaching jobs open, KU's search continues | KUsports.com
- Spartans' Mark Dantonio remains appreciative of Alabama's Nick Saban giving him a chance | MLive.com
- Dan Enos brings struggling Central Michigan University program to face Michigan State and mentor Mark Dantonio | MLive.com
- Don Treadwell Named Head Football Coach at Miami - Michigan State Official Athletic Site
- Michigan State vs. Iowa - 2011-11-12 - NCAA College Football Score - SI.com
- Fornelli, Tom. "Mark Dantonio on Michigan: 'Where's the threat?'". Eye On College Football. CBS Sports.