Mark Dantonio introduced as Michigan State’s 24th head football coach
EAST LANSING, Mich. — Mark Dantonio, who has coached Cincinnati for the past three seasons and was a former assistant coach at Michigan State for six years, has been named Michigan State University’s 24th head football coach. Dantonio was formally introduced at a noon press conference on Monday, Nov. 27, in the Clara Bell Smith Student-Athlete Academic Center auditorium.
The 50-year-old Dantonio established himself as one of the nation’s up-and-coming coaches during his three-year tenure at Cincinnati. This season, Dantonio led the Bearcats to a 7-5 overall record and a 4-3 BIG EAST mark, making Cincinnati bowl eligible for the second time in three years. Dantonio accomplished the feat against the second-toughest schedule in the country, as UC’s opponents compiled a 69-42 record. His Bearcats upset then-No. 7 Rutgers, 30-11, on Nov. 18, handing the Scarlet Knights their ﬁrst loss of the season and marking the highest-ranked opponent ever defeated by UC.
Highly respected as one of the top defensive coaches in the country, Dantonio’s Bearcats rank 21st nationally in tackles for loss, 23rd in pass efﬁciency defense, 27th in rushing defense and 36th in total defense in the latest NCAA statistics.
Dantonio compiled an 18-17 overall record in his three years at Cincinnati and led the program in its transition to the BIG EAST Conference. He became the ﬁrst head coach in 23 years to direct a team to a winning season in his ﬁrst year at UC. The Bearcats’ went 7-5 in 2004, including a 5-3 mark in Conference USA to ﬁnish second in the league standings, and defeated Marshall in the Fort Worth Bowl.
In his ﬁrst two seasons at Cincinnati, 15 of Dantonio’s players earned all-conference honors and 25 received academic all-conference recognition.
Prior to his appointment at Cincinnati, Dantonio served as the defensive coordinator at Ohio State for three seasons, where his defensive unit became known as one of the stingiest in the country. During the Buckeyes’ 2002 National Championship season, OSU ranked second nationally in scoring defense and third in rushing defense, and the following year, his unit ranked No. 1 in the country in rushing defense and ninth in total defense, sparking the Buckeyes to an 11-2 mark and a No. 4 national ranking.
Dantonio is familiar with East Lansing, as he spent six seasons (1995-2000) as Michigan State’s secondary coach, including associate head coach duties in 2000. He contributed to Michigan State’s successful 1999 season, during which the Spartans went 10-2, won the Florida Citrus Bowl, led the Big Ten in total defense and ranked No. 7 in the ﬁnal polls.
A Zanesville, Ohio, native with Midwest ties, Dantonio has 24 years of collegiate coaching experience, and has coached in 10 bowl games. He has worked for some of the top coaches in the game, including Nick Saban, Jim Tressel and Earle Bruce.
Here’s a closer look at Dantonio’s tenure at Cincinnati:
- The 2006 Cincinnati Bearcats went 7-5 overall and 4-3 in the BIG EAST Conference against the nation’s second-toughest schedule. Four of UC’s ﬁve losses came to teams ranked in the current top 15 (No. 1 Ohio State, No. 6 Louisville, No. 14 Virginia Tech, No. 15 West Virginia). The Bearcats produced arguably the greatest victory in school history with a 30-11 victory over then-No. 7 Rutgers on Nov. 18, marking the highest-ranked opponent ever defeated by UC.
Defense was the strong suit for the Bearcats this season, as Cincinnati ranked among the national leaders in tackles for loss (No. 21 at 6.8 per game), pass efﬁciency defense (No. 23 at 109.30 rating), rushing defense (No. 27 at 107.5 ypg) and total defense (No. 36 at 304.3 ypg.). UC held seven of its 12 opponents to less than 100 yards rushing, highlighted by performances of 36 yards each in back-to-back games vs. Miami (Ohio) and Akron. In the win over Rutgers, Cincinnati held the nation’s No. 15 rushing offense to a season-low 50 yards on the ground, and held the nation’s No. 3 rusher, Ray Rice, to a season-low 54 yards. Middle linebacker Kevin McCullough leads the team in tackles and ranks ﬁfth in the BIG EAST and 48th nationally with 13.5 tackles for loss. Defensive end Trevor Anderson ranks sixth in the BIG EAST and 56th nationally in tackles for loss (13.0) and is ninth in the BIG EAST in sacks (6.0).
- In 2005, Dantonio brought together one of the nation’s youngest teams, with the Bearcats starting as many as ﬁve ﬁrst-year freshman on defense and posted a competitive 4-7 record in the program’s ﬁrst season in the BIG EAST. Two defensive players, Mike Mickens and Corey Smith, earned second-team All-BIG EAST accolades.
- Dantonio became only the second head coach in Cincinnati history (along with Sid Gillman) to take the Bearcats to a bowl game in his ﬁrst season in 2004. UC topped Marshall, 32-14, in the Fort Worth Bowl to cap a 7-5 season. The Bearcats tied for second in the Conference USA standings with a 5-3 league mark. The secondary ranked 26th in the nation and ﬁrst in C-USA in pass defense. The Bearcats also ranked second in C-USA in total defense and third in scoring defense and pass efﬁciency defense. Offensively, quarterback Gino Guidugli ranked 15th in the country in passing efﬁciency (146.48 rating) and directed the Bearcats to the 30th-ranked offense in the nation. Three players were chosen in the 2005 NFL Draft (defensive end Trent Cole, linebacker Tyjuan Hagler and cornerback Daven Holly).
While serving as the defensive coordinator at Ohio State, Dantonio’s defense guided the Buckeyes to a 32-6 mark in his three seasons in Columbus. Ohio State’s defense was the second toughest against the run in 2003, allowing 62.3 yards per game, and was ranked No. 10 in total defense and No. 16 in scoring defense. Those efforts helped the Buckeyes rank No. 4 in the ﬁnal polls. Dantonio assembled the defense which led Ohio State to the national title in 2002. The Buckeyes were second nationally in scoring defense (13.1 points per game) and third in rushing defense (77.7 ypg.) during their title run. Six Buckeyes defenders were named ﬁrst-team All-Big Ten during Dantonio’s tenure and 13 were drafted by the pros, including a pair of ﬁrst-round selections.
Dantonio spent six seasons (1995-2000) as secondary coach at Michigan State, ﬁve under Nick Saban and one under Bobby Williams. He was promoted to associate head coach in 2000. During MSU’s 10-2 season in 1999, he tutored cornerback Amp Campbell, who earned third-team All-America honors from the Associated Press. Under his supervision, the Spartan secondary ranked among the NCAA leaders in pass defense three of his last four years, ﬁnishing No. 10 in 1998, No. 16 in 1997 and No. 22 in 2000. In his last season as secondary coach at MSU, the Spartans only allowed 164.1 yards a game through the air, ranking seventh in the country. During his six years in East Lansing, MSU compiled a 39-30-1 record.
Dantonio came to Michigan State following four seasons under Glen Mason at Kansas (1991-94) where he coached the defensive secondary. In 1992, the Jayhawks produced an 8-4 record and defeated BYU, 23-20, in the Aloha Bowl.
Dantonio previously spent ﬁve years at Youngstown State under Jim Tressel, helping the Penguins to three trips to the NCAA I-AA playoffs. While serving as defensive coordinator in 1990, Youngstown State posted a perfect 11-0 regular-season record and ranked second nationally.
His coaching credits also including stops at Akron (defensive secondary, 1985), Ohio State (graduate assistant, 1983-84), Butler (Kan.) Junior College (defensive coordinator, 1982), Purdue (graduate assistant, 1981) and Ohio University (graduate assistant, 1980). During his stint as a graduate assistant under Earle Bruce at Ohio State, the Buckeyes played in the 1983 Fiesta and 1984 Rose Bowls.
Dantonio began his coaching career as an assistant coach at Westside High School in Anderson, S.C.
Dantonio earned three letters as a defensive back for Coach Jim Carlen at South Carolina (1976-78). He earned a bachelor’s degree in education from South Carolina in 1979. Dantonio later earned a master’s degree in education from Ohio U. in 1980.
He picked up all-state and all-league honors as a prep football player at Zanesville (Ohio) High School. Dantonio also was selected to play in the Ohio North-South All-Star Game.
Born March 9, 1956, in El Paso, Texas, Mark and his wife Becky have two daughters, Kristen,13, and Lauren, 11.
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