Dantonio: Better than the Big Ten coach of the year
Will the real Big Ten coach of the year please stand up? If anyone but Mark Dantonio stands up to those words, it should be a sham.
This afternoon, Michigan’s Brady Hoke was named Big Ten coach of the year — not only by the media, but by his peers. If this award were based on merit, and merit alone, a coach who did not lead his team to a division title would not be in the conversation.
Alas, that is not how it goes. Hoke, by taking the Wolverines from an abysmal three-year stretch under RichRod to a 10-2 record, took the hardware for turning around the team. Makes sense, right? Last year, when Dantonio won coach of the year with a similarly home-heavy schedule, the Spartans went 11-1 in the regular season.
Difference is that Michigan State team tied for the conference championship, this year’s Michigan team did not and even if they had not lost to Iowa, still would have lost the Legends Division to…Michigan State.
What Dantonio did do this year was take arguably the hardest schedule in the Big Ten (Nebraska could make a case having a road game at Penn State as well) and led his team to a 10-2 record, only losing at Nebraska and Notre Dame.
Those two losses were shellackings, mind you, but Dantonio maneuvered through a minefield month of October with the lone blemish at Nebraska after beat Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin back-to-back-to-back. That is a stretch as daunting as pitching to Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Bob Meusel for the 1927 Yankees….or any three-week stretch in the SEC West.
The Spartans demolished Iowa at Kinnick, erasing that memory of a spanking in 2010. MSU won at Ohio State for the first time since 1998. Sparty beat Wisconsin for the second consecutive year.
Oh, and that Hoke-coached Michigan team? They hobbled out of Spartan Stadium after the MSU defense used the grass as its crayon to paint the white Michigan jerseys green. A 28-14 taste of in-state domination — something Spartan Nation has come to expect.
Maybe that is exactly why he did not win coach of the year.
Michael Rosenberg said this in his column for the Free Press this week.
“Michigan, not Michigan State, is the surprising success story right now. (Maybe the greatest compliment we can pay Mark Dantonio is this: His team had the best record in the Big Ten, and Dantonio might not win Big Ten coach of the year. That tells you people expect success from MSU now.)”
This tells it like it is: Success for Dantonio and MSU is no longer a surprise, it now is the norm. Dantonio doesn’t require an award to tell him this success over the past two seasons is real, it speaks for itself.
No losses at Spartan Stadium. A 14-2 Big Ten record. A 21-3 regular season record. The first Legends Division title. A shot as the program’s first Rose Bowe since 1988 — the birth year of many members of the senior class.
The Michigan State trophy case would gladly accept another Big Ten Championship trophy, and a possible Rose Bowl trophy, than an individidual award. A reflection of the mindset at the top, with Dantonio.
Coach of the Big Ten Champions has a better ring to it than Big Ten coach of the year anyway.