When you talk about the two major revenue sports, it’s impossible to find another Division I or FBS-level school with the consistent level of recent success of Michigan State.
In nine seasons, Mark Dantonio has led the Michigan State football program to three division titles and three conference championships while going to nine consecutive bowl games. He has also finished in the Top 10 during the last three seasons with victories in two New Year’s Six or BCS bowls. Only Jim Tressel and Joe Paterno have as many 11-win seasons in Big Ten history as Dantonio.
In basketball, Tom Izzo’s success is also difficult to duplicate. During his time in East Lansing, he has seven Final Four appearances, seven Big Ten Championships, five Big Ten Tournament titles, a national championship and will be named to the Naismith Hall of Fame later this season.
With all of that success, as well as the runs by the men’s soccer and women’s cross country programs, and the improving women’s basketball and baseball programs, it’s easy to see how Spartan fans can be caught up in the recent success of Michigan State athletics.
However, it appears the success that has been the groundwork of these programs, as well as other programs including hockey, has been getting lost with all of the hype currently surrounding Spartan athletics. At the risk of sounding like Oscar Robertson or Scottie Pippen longing for the “good ol’ days,” Spartan fans should definitely enjoy however long this run lasts, but shouldn’t be so quick to forget about the foundation of these successful programs.
In our recent series where we allowed the fans to vote on the best coach in the history of all Michigan State sports, we ended up with Izzo and Dantonio facing each other in the final. (By the way, the poll is still open and the winner will be announced next Monday.) Personally, I am as big of a fan as possible of both of these men as they have helped reestablish a level of consistent dominance not seen for a while at Michigan State in their respective sports. While it’s understandable that some people may have just voted for their favorite coaches, we were asking for the best and so the results of this tournament were a bit shocking.
In our quarterfinal round, Dantonio received over 69% of the votes when he matched up with Duffy Daugherty, despite Daugherty having four national championships in the same sport. He also received over 60% of the votes in the semifinals against another multiple-time national champion and the man who put the football program on the map, Biggie Munn.
Though Izzo’s path is a little less surprising, he still received over 88% of the votes in his semifinal round against a five-time NCAA Champion, Karl Schlademan. In his quarterfinal match-up, he had nearly 80% of the votes against Ron Mason, despite similar resumes. The one glaring difference between Mason and Izzo is that Mason has double the conference tournament championships and is currently second in the history of his sport in wins. One can’t really fault people for voting for Izzo, but those results were too one-sided to ignore when it comes to comparing those resumes.
Based on the differences in the results of the polls and what we were looking for, it is safe to say the rich history of Michigan State athletics is at the very least overshadowed by the recent success MSU athletics according to the fans.
Even in football, while Dantonio has been extremely successful, there seems to have been less importance stressed on the historical success and tradition established by the coaches that came before him. Though he has helped reestablish Michigan State as a college football power, he is only part of the reason that, in college football, the Spartans are one of the most successful ever. They rank 24th all-time in winning percentage and have the 26th most wins ever. When it comes to national championships recognized by the NCAA, MSU ranks 12th all-time with four or, if you go by how many titles schools claim, they are ranked 19th with six.
There is a reason that when Dantonio came to Michigan State, he repetitively talked about building on the program’s history. He mentioned his time as a defensive backs coach in East Lansing and said “I knew I represented something that had history behind it, had tradition behind it, and had championships behind it.”
While Spartan fans should definitely enjoy what they have right now, they shouldn’t forget about the past as that has laid the foundation for the current success of all of the athletic programs. It’s important to remember the rich history that stretches long before he days of Dantonio and Izzo. After all, those two haven’t forgotten it.
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