One has to wonder how much longer Mark Dantonio is going to stick around Michigan State. As of today, the 63-year-old Spartans head coach is now the sole holder of the program’s career coaching wins record. Additionally, all the off-the-field drama surrounding the program and the athletic department could eventually take his toll on him.
With an extremely one-sided 31-10 victory at Northwestern on Saturday, in front of 40,114 fans (about evenly split in partisanship), “Coach D.” notched win 110 (against 52 losses), separating himself from Duffy Daugherty (109-69-5), a man who won four national championships (1955, 1957, 1965, 1966) and two Big Ten titles in East Lansing.
And this milestone comes during a week in which Dantonio badly needed some good news.
Dantonio stands accused by ex-Spartans Recruiting Director Curtis Blackwell of ignoring the warnings made by other staff members to refrain from signing former Michigan State DE Auston Robertson.
The accusation was made on Thursday, while Blackwell was under oath, giving testimony against Dantonio, former Athletic Director Mark Hollis, former University President Lou Anna Simon and two MSU police officers for wrongful termination.
Robertson was rated as a 247Sports Composite four-star recruit in the class of 2016, but his signing with Michigan State was delayed due to a misdemeanor battery charge for inappropriately grabbing a fellow student at Wayne High School (Fort Wayne, Ind.) in January 2016. That charge was dropped in March 2017 after he met the terms of a year-long probation program.
However, Robertson was then dismissed by Michigan State in April 2017 following an arrest for third-degree criminal sexual conduct. The former defensive end later pleaded guilty to the charge, and he was sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.
Due to the fact that this is an ongoing court case, Dantonio will not speak of these developments beyond the following statement issued earlier this week:
“The fact that Mr. Blackwell’s contract was not renewed has nothing to do with Auston Robertson.”
“Two years ago, I spoke at length about Auston Robertson when he was dismissed from the team in 2017. Rather than engage in a public argument with a former staffer, I refer you to those previous statements. Further, there have been multiple investigations into the program’s handling of sexual assaults, including Jones Day in 2017 and the NCAA in 2018, and they concluded that the program and myself committed no violations.
“With regard to Mr. Blackwell’s lawsuit, because the litigation is ongoing, I have no further comment on this matter and refer all questions to my counsel.”
Attorneys for Dantonio have asked a federal court to limit both how long the coach has to take questions under oath and what subject matter Blackwell’s attorneys can ask him about.
The following statement was published in the Detroit Free Press:
“The gamesmanship by Plaintiff (Blackwell) and his counsel could not be clearer. They are improperly abusing the court’s discovery process to maximize disruption and inconvenience to Dantonio, while generating negative publicity with the wholly irrelevant, scandalous topics that this court rejected in Plaintiff’s proposed amended complaint.
“Plaintiff had many months to take the depositions of Dantonio and the other defendants under this court’s scheduling order. Plaintiff instead waited until late August 2019 — when he knew that Dantonio’s professional obligations were at their peak — to demand his deposition.”
Turning to much lighter, on the field matters, Michigan State ended a three game losing skid to Northwestern. Had State lost today, the current senior class would have gone winless against NU.
“He gave me a high five, I said congrats coach- that’s about all we talk,” MSU Captain and star linebacker Joe Bachie said of the milestone victory.
“We kind of wanted to get it last week, but we were focused on just starting Big Ten play 1-0,” added starting quarterback Brian Lewerke. He also said: “We wanted to pour some water on him,” but someone had gotten got rid of the coolers before they could.
Lewerke appeared in front of the media wearing a special commemorative baseball hat, emblazoned with 110 on it (pictured below)
As for Dantonio himself, he was expectedly reserved, mild-mannered and under-stated about how the whole achievement.
“These are things you sit back and think about at a later time,” he said. “it’s not an individual thing…You can’t get thee without players, past players, coaches, it’s a special group of people. You always have a chance to win of you have (good team) chemistry.”
Dantonio doesn’t have any of special celebration planned either.
“I’ve always bene one to say let’s go to the next challenge,” he added before remarking on how he likes the Rose Bowl champion hat better.
With 11 bowl appearances (three New Year’s Six) three Big Ten division titles, two conference titles and one playoff appearance, Dantonio has achieved an awful lot, and if he is to step away at the end of the year, he would certainly have a ton to hang his hat on.
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation.
You can follow Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com on Twitter here and his cat on Instagram at this link.
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