Mark Dantonio’s name will soon stand alone atop the list of all-time winningest football coaches at Michigan State.
On the cusp of breaking Duffy Daugherty’s record, Dantonio said he is thankful for all the people on the field, sideline and behind the scenes that have played a huge part in his success.
“You don’t get to this point without the help and support of donors, administration, people who hired me, people who helped me along the way administratively, our players,” Dantonio said Tuesday following his weekly news conference. “I think of all the players who have come through here: the coaches, the continuity we’ve had as coaches, as teachers, not just as our coaches, but our staff, our trainers, our equipment people.
“There are so many people who make up a program of this size that I hope everybody takes a minute to sit down and say, ‘Hey, we’ve all done this together.‘”
Dantonio matched Daugherty’s record of 109 wins while helping the 18th-ranked Spartans open the season with a 51-17 win over Western Michigan and a 28-7 victory against Tulsa.
His first shot to break the mark set in 1972 will come at home Saturday against Arizona State (2-0).
The 63-year-old coach will likely have a chance to win many more games this season and in the years to come, ending with a retirement he doesn’t expect anytime soon.
“I keep telling my players, ‘As long as you don’t give me too many problems — and the bar is high — I’m going to continue to do what I enjoy doing as long as I feel like I can be successful and impact people,” Dantonio said. “I think we can do that.”
Since 2007, he has turned a mediocre program into one good enough to claim three Big Ten championships, win a Rose Bowl and earn a spot in the College Football Playoff. He is one of just four coaches in Big Ten history to win 11 games in at least five seasons to join a group that includes the late Joe Paterno, Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer.
Dantonio has also hit some lows, plummeting to a 3-9 record after being ranked No. 8 early in the 2016 season. An ESPN report also questioned how Dantonio dealt with allegations against his players and he publicly and privately defended how he handled all complaints in the wake of a campus crisis regarding the school’s handling of allegations against former sports doctor and convicted molester Larry Nassar.
Shortly after beating Notre Dame in 2010, he had a mild heart attack.
“In 13 years, there’s going to be challenges,” Dantonio said. “I say all the time to my players and coaches, ‘Everybody is going through some type of challenge.‘”
Dantonio challenged his players last week at his news conference, lashing out at them for lacking effort and toughness in the season-opening win over Tulsa.
“Well, if you feel that was fire last week, you should have been at the team meeting,” he told reporters. “Sometimes you just have to deal with the brutal reality of things, and you have to call them as you see them and that’s the way I called it.”
Dantonio, though, was quick to say at his players are the ones who deserve credit for bouncing back with a confidence-boosting blowout against Western Michigan.
Dantonio is 109-51 since he left Cincinnati and returned to Michigan State, where he was an assistant for Nick Saban and Bobby Williams. He heaped praise on the administrators who hired him, and were still supportive when the program has dipped, the support staff in and around the football program along with donors who finance the school’s quest to keep up with college football’s top programs.
Dantonio draws from all kinds of sources to inspire himself, and those around him, including Lao Tzu.
“Go to the people,‘” Dantonio said, starting his favorite quote attributed to the Chinese philosopher. “If you just read that one and look at it, you’ll know what I mean because there’s so many people involved.”