American Football Database
Mark Dantonio
Current position
TitleHead coach
TeamMichigan State
ConferenceBig Ten
Record51-28 (.646)
Annual salary$1,800,000
Biographical details
Born (1956-03-09) March 9, 1956 (age 66)
El Paso, Texas
Playing career
1976–1978South Carolina
Position(s)Defensive back
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
Ohio (GA)
Purdue (GA)
Butler CC (DC)
Ohio State (GA)
Akron (DB)
Youngstown State (DC)
Kansas (DB)
Michigan State (DB)
Ohio State (DC)
Michigan State
Head coaching record
College Football Data Warehouse
Accomplishments and honors
1 Big Ten Title (2010)
1 Big Ten Legends Division Title (2011)
Big Ten Coach of the Year (2010)

Mark Dantonio (born March 9, 1956) is the current head football coach at Michigan State University. He was hired on November 27, 2006 and became the 24th head coach at Michigan State. His most recent accomplishments include back to back 11 win seasons, 4 straight victories over Michigan, and calling for a successful overtime fake field goal against Notre Dame in the 2010 season. Before arriving in East Lansing, he was a head coach for three seasons at University of Cincinnati, where he compiled an 18–17 overall record including a win in the 2004 Fort Worth Bowl. 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.[1] Known as a defensive-minded coach, Dantonio has compiled a 46–22 record while at Michigan State, giving him a .676 winning percentage, the highest of any MSU coach since that of Clarence Munn. During his tenure the Spartans have won the school's first bowl game since 2001 in the 2012 Outback Bowl. On October 8, 2011, Dantonio signed a contract extension that made him a "Spartan for life."[2]

Childhood and education

Dantonio grew up in Zanesville, Ohio and attended Zanesville High School. He was a three-year letter winner at the University of South Carolina, where he played defensive back from 1976 to 1978. After earning his bachelor’s degree from South Carolina, Dantonio moved on to Ohio University, where he earned his master’s degree in education 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 when he moved on to Purdue as a graduate assistant. He spent two years in Columbus as a graduate assistant for Ohio State in 1983 and 1984 under then head coach Earle Bruce. In 1986, he began a five-year stint on Jim Tressel’s staff at Youngstown State 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. Following the 2000 season, Dantonio was hired by new Ohio State University head coach Jim Tressel.

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 fifteen players earn all-conference honors and twenty-five 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.[3]

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.[4]

Dantonio won his first game at Michigan State on September 1, 2007, when the Spartans defeated the UAB Blazers, 55–18.[5] 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.[6]

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.

The third season for Dantonio (2009) was mixed in terms of performance and off-the-field issues. The team lost five games (Central Michigan, @ Notre Dame, Iowa, @ Minnesota, Texas Tech) where they held the lead in the fourth quarter, leading to a disappointing 6-7 record on the season.

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 the hospital after noticing chest pains. He later suffered a heart attack. He had a stent put in a blocked artery near his heart. His doctor stated that the damage was minimal and expected him to make a full recovery. Offensive coordinator Don Treadwell became acting head coach while Dantonio recovered.

On September 30, 2010, after Mark 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 did not coach the game but rather watched the game from his hospital room. He was reportedly released from Sparrow Hospital around noon on October 4, 2010. On October 9, 2010, 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, 2010, 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, Mark 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 (number 15 in the BCS standings).[7] The Spartans were crushed by the Crimson Tide 49-7 and finished the season 11-2.

In 2011, Michigan State had a successful year. They 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 with an overall record of 11-3.

In 2012, Dantonio led the Spartans to a disappointing 7-6 record and a Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl win. The team lost five games by a total of thirteen points.

Coaching tree

Played under:

Coached under:

Former assistants who became NCAA Division I FBS head coaches:

Notable quotes

  • "I find a lot of the things they do amusing. They need to check themselves sometimes. But just remember, pride comes before the fall... This game is an important game. So they want to mock us all they want to mock us, I'm telling them: it's not over. So they can print that crap all they want all over their locker room. It's not over. It'll never be over here. It's just starting... I'm going to be a coach here for a long time. It's not over. It's just starting." (Regarding arch-rival Michigan.[17]
  • "We came here with an idea that we were going to have to weather the storm or be the storm." (Before a 37-21 victory over Iowa, the Spartans' first win at Kinnick Stadium since 1989.)[18]
  • "Winner take all."
  • "We're laying in the weeds. We've beat Michigan the last four years. So where's the threat?" ([19]

Head coaching record

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs Coaches# AP°
Cincinnati Bearcats (Conference USA) (2004)
2004 Cincinnati 7–5 5–3 2nd W Fort Worth
Cincinnati Bearcats (Big East Conference) (2005–2006)
2005 Cincinnati 4–7 2–5 6th
2006 Cincinnati 7–5 4–3 4th International*
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
Michigan State: 51–28 30–18
Total: 69–45
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title
Indicates BCS bowl, Bowl Alliance or Bowl Coalition game. #Rankings from final Coaches' Poll.
°Rankings from final AP Poll.


  2. New contract for Michigan State Spartans coach Mark Dantonio makes him 'Spartan for life' - ESPN
  3. Rexrode, Joe. "Inside the Deal". Lansing State Journal. November 28, 2006. Accessed March 13, 2007
  4. Associated Press. "Dantonio presides over first spring game as Michigan State coach". Sporting News. April 21, 2007. Accessed July 10, 2007
  5. Associated Press. "Spartans 55, Blazers 18." ESPN. September 1, 2007
  6. Associated Press. "Ryan, Gunnell help BC extend bowl winning streak to eight". ESPN. December 28, 2007.
  7. Press Conference. "Big Ten Champions Accept Invitation from Capital One Bowl" "Michigan State Spartans" East Lansing, 5 December 2010. Retrieved 2010-12-5.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Mark Dantonio Profile - Michigan State Official Athletic Site
  9. Mark Dantonio Profile - - The Official Athletics Website of the University of Cincinnati
  10. Coach's game plan is X's, O's of life: Terry Pluto |
  11. Ability to Spot Talent
  12. Link to Jim Tressel means Michigan State's Mark Dantonio not a good fit at Ohio State |
  13. As more coaching jobs open, KU's search continues |
  14. Spartans' Mark Dantonio remains appreciative of Alabama's Nick Saban giving him a chance |
  15. Dan Enos brings struggling Central Michigan University program to face Michigan State and mentor Mark Dantonio |
  16. Don Treadwell Named Head Football Coach at Miami - Michigan State Official Athletic Site
  17. Mark Dantonio MSU "Pride Comes Before The Fall" - YouTube
  18. Michigan State vs. Iowa - 2011-11-12 - NCAA College Football Score -
  19. Fornelli, Tom. "Mark Dantonio on Michigan: 'Where's the threat?'". Eye On College Football. CBS Sports.

External links