Long An Elite Football Mind and Coach, Finally Michigan State Head Coach Mark Dantonio Paid like One!

Mark Dantonio is part of an elite few.

Without a doubt, the eighth-year Michigan State head coach is one of the best coaches in college football today.

On Tuesday, February 25, MSU Athletic Director Mark Hollis ensured that Dantonio is paid like one.

Dantonio received a one-year contract extension and pay raise, locking him up for the next six seasons at $3.64 million per year, a raise of over $1.5 million.

If anyone deserved a raise, it was Dantonio. The veteran coach has rebuilt a program from the ground-up, taking a middling team in the Big Ten and turning it into a national powerhouse. Last season, he led the Spartans to the program’s first Rose Bowl victory since 1988, first Big Ten title since 1987 and highest ranking (#3) since 1966.

Dantonio recently took time to speak to Spartan Nation about the contract extension and his feelings on another successful season.

This is the first article in a two-part series.

While Dantonio wasn’t clamoring for his recent raise, he was certainly happy to accept the pay increase. The Zanesville, Ohio also likes what the raise represents.

“It represents the confidence the administration has in us as coaches,” Dantonio said. “The commitment they have also represents the need for continuity within our staff and how important that is to our student-athletes, to our football players and to the success of this football program.”

Dantonio also took a moment to recognize his fellow coaches on the staff. Dantonio loves to speak highly of his talented staff, which he holds in high regard.

“Our coaches have done a tremendous, remarkable job. And quite frankly, they’re in high demand,” he said. “When that’s the case, you have to do things to keep them sometimes because there’s a market place value in terms of how they go. But to me, it allows us to keep continuity, which I think has been a big part of our success. You have the same teacher, same classroom, same teachers, same philosophies. You have a chance to critique things rather than reinvent things. You critique, you tweak, you do a better job with relationships, you look to areas where you can get better. I don’t care if you’re 13-1 or 7-5, you look for those opportunities and try to get better in those aspects.”

Asked to put the dollar figure of his raise in perspective, Dantonio recalled his graduate assistant days long ago.

“I worked for $300 a month for quite some time,” Dantonio said. “We’ve all had opportunities along the way to grow as coaches and as people, and to form our philosophies and what we do for a living and what we do with our lives. Those four graduate assistant years, and during my time at Youngstown State, I grew immensely under Jim Tressel; and at the University of Akron under Jim Dennison as well. Those have been very meaningful years.”

The new deal has other implications for Dantonio. The raise silences every false rumor that Dantonio is leaving East Lansing.

Dantonio has garnered interest most notably from the University of Texas, and also from several NFL teams. But Dantonio never considered leaving.

“We’ve wanted to be Spartans so we’ve remained true to that aspect throughout the last seven years,” Dantonio said. “There’s always movement in college football, so you’ve got to expect some things to show up, but we’ve always been extremely happy here.

“It’d be very difficult to leave our football team and football players because you form relationships with your players over the course of time,” he continued. “Beyond all the cameras, beyond all this, it’s still about the players, it’s still about relationships. It comes back to why you coach. I know we’re here to talk contract and such, but I didn’t get into coaching to make money. I got into coaching to impact people and hopefully help them become self-sufficient as they move through their lives.”

The Spartans’ success this past season has allowed Dantonio to take a step back and think about what this past season meant to him.

His recent raise helps him see how special it really was.

“Whenever you come up with a year like this, you find yourself thinking back to how it happened a little bit. When you’re in it and involved, you just move through it from game to game, situation to situation,” Dantonio said. “When the games are over, when the recruiting is over, you have a chance to stop and you start to critique what just happened, you start to measure it a little bit. It has taken a little bit of a time period to let it all sink in, to recognize why it happened, how it happened, how many people were involved in making it happen: Our players, our fans, the administration.

“I keep going back to what an incredible experience it was at the Rose Bowl for us, but how many experiences it created for so many different people. Every time I go out [to Pasadena], and I’m sure everyone else will say the same thing, ‘I’ve got a great story to tell from my time there.’ That’s the most fundamental thing that I think needs to be mentioned about this football game. It’s not just meaningful to our players and coaches, but everyone had a life experience out of it there. And that’s what I think athletics should be about, creating life experiences, enthusiasm and things you’ll remember for the rest of your lives.”

Most Spartan fans will likely never forget that fateful night in which Michigan State beat Stanford for the program’s first Rose Bowl victory since 1988. Dantonio’s $1.5 million raise is certainly worth all the memories created on that glorious New Year’s Day evening in Pasadena.

The Spartan Nation is lucky to have Mark Dantonio for the considerable future. Hopefully Dantonio and his Spartans will make many more memories for Green and White faithful to enjoy for a long time.

Joe Ginley is the newest writer for the Spartan Nation website and magazine. He writes Spartans in the NFL and State of the Spartans among other articles. He lives in Cleveland, Ohio. Joe brings a great passion for sports and a great flexibility in writing skills.

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