June 6, 2012

Dantonio: 'They say we're going to be good; I would agree'

DETROIT - Mark Dantonio seems to be aware of the early preseason rankings that are filtering through the newstands early this summer. Athlon's has Michigan State at No. 18 in the country in its preseason annual, and Phil Steele has the Spartans No. 19.

Dantonio isn't going to argue with those forecasts, judging by his comments at the Detroit Economic Club, Tuesday at the Westin Book- Cadillac Hotel in the Motor City.

"They say we're going to be good, I would agree," Dantonio said, wrapping up a short briefing on what he likes about his team, less than 90 days before the opener of the 2012 season.

"I really feel very good about our football team right now," Dantonio began. "We've got great leadership. We have confidence. We have not lost in Spartan Stadium in the last two years. We have won more football games than any Big Ten school in the last four years, I think (applause). Things are happening. We have big-time players across the board. We return 19 of the 22 top players on defense, which we had a great defense last year. Offensively, our offensive line will probably be a strength for the first time since we've been there. Great collection of running backs. Both of our specialists are back. And I think a very poised quarterback."

Later, Dantonio said new starting QB, junior Andrew Maxwell, would become "a household name."

Dantonio provided his latest feelings on the program as part of a 12-topic, rapid-fire question-and-answer session feature himself, MSU basketball coach Tom Izzo and MSU athletic director Mark Hollis. The trio tackled topics that were suggested by the Detroit Economic Club before a packed room of mostly Spartan backers in a format modeled after the popular ESPN sports talk show "Pardon the Interruption."

Izzo and Dantonio usually had less than three minutes to expound on a topic.

When Dantonio was asked within the format to discuss his best football moments as the Spartan head coach, he admitted to giving the question more than a little thought.

"I sort of thought about this on the way over here today, knowing some of the questions that would be asked," he said. "We've had great moments. When you look at us, you've got the Wisconsin wins; the four Michigan wins; the Outback Bowl win; the 2007 Penn State game, which was huge; the Northwestern game, winning the Legends Division championship outright; the Big Ten Championship Game. But I guess the best moment for me is looking in the eyes of our players and seeing the satisfaction that comes with each of those moments. It's that individual moment when you're sitting there with one of my daughters with the Big Ten Championship trophy between us at Penn State that are the most beautiful moments. Or it's the moment when you see Kirk (Cousins) or one of our players, knowing how hard they have worked. And Adam (Decker) back there, it's that moment after he makes the tackle versus Iowa in 2008 that wins the football game for us in the last seconds."

Decker, Cousins and Trenton Robinson were among the former MSU players who attended the event, Tuesday in Detroit.

"So it is no particular game; it's the moments following those game when you see satisfaction on your players' faces. It's seeing Antonio Jeremiah graduate after five tough years up against it. It's moments that really make Michigan State football, and that's why we do this. That's why you coach. You coach to be impactful."

Time Is Money, Even in Football

Sticking with the economic theme of the event, Hollis addressed the topic of the importance of donations within major college athletics. He said MSU's athletic budget is at $85 million with MSU athletes earning nearly $13 million in athletic scholarships.

"Big time college football, it's a business," Dantonio said. "There are business decisions that have to be made. There are things that have to be built. We are constantly talking in our office that it's a race against time. Whether it's recruiting a young man or it's building a new facility, whether it's getting ready for a football team and right now watching the different teams that we are preparing for ... right now, they (the assistant coaches) are not sitting back at the office drinking coffee. They are working, just like everybody in this room works extremely hard. It is a business and with the business we have to generate funds. This is the type of thing that continually just rolls. And I guess the cost of having fun has gone up."

Point To The Scoreboard

Business considerations were at the heart of Michigan State's pursuit of improved scoreboards for Spartan Stadium. Michigan State's new videoboards - including a massive one atop the seating in the south end zone and two others atop the north end zone - will give the Spartans 13,500 square feet of scoreboard space.

Construction on the $10,000 project began soon after the April 28 Green-White Game. All funds were generated by the athletic department, Hollis said.

Hollis said the quest for game-changing video boards at the stadium were necessary in part due to the need to keep fans entertained, and provide additional reasons for MSU supporters to watch the games in person during an era in which television sets and home theaters are becoming a strong competitor for ticket offices.

"I was in the stadium yesterday and I looked up and the environment of Spartan Stadium has changed," Hollis said. "The video boards are massive."

The scoreboard will be the fifth largest in the nation.

"It's the largest in the state," Hollis said.

"It's absolutely the largest in the state," Dantonio interjected. "But I promised my family I wasn't going there today."

Dantonio didn't send any barbs Ann Arbor's way on this day.

But he digs the new scoreboard.

"If you turn a basketball court up on its side, that's how big the video board is," Dantonio said. "So it's going to be a completely different atmosphere in there."

Izzo chimed in:

"Does Hollis want me to play basketball on that thing?"

This was one of several moments that the basketball drew laughter from the audience.

Earlier, during the first topic of the day, Hollis and Izzo discussed the branding impact of MSU having played in unique venues in recent years, such as the Basket Bowl at Ford Field in 2003, and last season's Carrier Classic basketball game played on the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson. Hollis poked fun at Izzo for failing to win those games.

Hot Reads

Other Tuesday topics in Detroit:

  • On the impact of the Big Ten Network:

    "I have to admit it has far exceeded my expectations," izzo said.

    Izzo has been impressed with the quality of behind-the-scenes programming on the network.

    "Sometimes you are a little worried about things you say behind the scenes, and you have to trust those guys a little bit," Izzo said. "It's worked out great for us."

  • On 2012 football:

    Dantonio: "From what I understand, our season tickets are at an all-time high. There are maybe 500 season tickets left (actually 300). So (selling them out) will happen probably this week."

    "This year has been phenomenal," Hollis said. "The bad thing is that individual tickets go away and it gets tougher and tougher to buy a single ticket."

  • On the opportunity for college basketball players to jump to the NBA after one year in college:

    Izzo: "I would definitely try to sign a kid that is one-and-done," Izzo said. "I would rather not sign a kid who would come in thinking he was one-and-done.

    "Right now, I'm sad to say, but if you had to look at winning a National Championship or sending a kid o the NBA, which would help your recruiting more? It would be the kid going to the NBA."

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