Izzo Defends Dantonio: 'He’ll Be Here As Long As He Wants'

Dantonio's job has come into question amid middling results.

Jamie and Stoney
December 10, 2019 - 11:53 am
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On the heels of another disappointing season, Mark Dantonio seems to be on shaky ground at Michigan State. 

Not in the eyes of Tom Izzo, who made a passionate defense for Dantonio during an interview Tuesday with the Jamie and Stoney Show on 97.1 The Ticket. 

"The haters are gonna hate, that’s about as normal as you can get. If you look at his record and what he’s done, it’s unbelievable," Izzo said. "There’s only two (Big Ten) schools that have been to the BCS Final Four, as I call it, and he’s one of them. At one time he was (36-5). He’s had a couple years of incredibly injury-prone (teams), I’ve never seen so many injuries.

"My buddy Mark Dantonio, I hope is here for years to come. I hope him and I get together and when we want to call it quits, we do it together. But it ain’t gonna be in the near future. I mean, that’s Mark’s choice, but as far as whether it’s not his choice, as some people (say) … this guy’s an incredible human being, a good football coach and I think he’ll be here as long as he wants to be here."

Dantonio, 63, said last month that he intends to be back next season. With the leadership void at Michigan State, it's unlikely any major changes will be made in the near future. Izzo believes the choice should belong to Dantonio, anyway. 

"If Mark Dantonio was ever gone because of pressure, Tom Izzo would probably be right behind him, because I believe in the guy. I think he’s got years left. But hey, every decision is an individual’s -- how you feel, how’s your health, how’s your family, where do you think you are. I still think he’s got a lot of passion. He flew back in for (our) game the other night because he’s been on the road recruiting." 

Since leading the Spartans to the College Football Playoff in 2015, part of a three-year stretch when they went 36-5, Dantonio is 26-25. In three of the last four seasons, Michigan State began the year in the Top 25 only to finish well outside it. It's prompted many outsiders to start calling for Dantonio's job. But internally, Izzo said, that conversation isn't taking place. 

"I’m here at Michigan State. From our people here, there’s no issue with Mark Dantonio," said Izzo. "Is he disappointed? I was here when 6-6 were great years, so yeah, disappointed. I think if he had to do it over again, losing to Illinois and Arizona state -- although Arizona State ended up pretty good, and so did Illinois – were games they could have won. They’d be 8-4 and nobody’d be saying nothing.

"You know what, not because we’re both Italian, you got a big Dantonio fan here and this fan thinks that our football and basketball programs are still in great shape. But in the eyes of the public, that changes not yearly, not monthly, not weekly, not hourly, but ‘minutely,’ and I just kind of blow it off and go back to work."

Izzo also touched on the NCAA transfer portal and his frustration with the inconsistencies of the waiver process. Joey Hauser, who transferred from Marquette to Michigan State, was denied immediate eligibility this season -- a decision that prompted Izzo to resign from the board of the National Association of Basketball Coaches. 

"There’s a reason kids transfer, it’s okay," said Izzo. "But if we’re all high and mighty like the NCAA says and like the universities say, and say everything’s academic, when you transfer, you lose half a semester minimum. I don’t care where you transfer to or how you transfer. So if you’re worried about the academics, what does it hurt?

"Joey Hauser, make sure you understand this. Don’t say Tom Izzo was talking out of both sides of his mouth. I have publicly said, I haven’t changed, I don’t think there should be any waivers. But when three-fourths of America is getting a waiver and the mother calls and says, ‘Well, why don’t we put his name in?’ and then we look at all the situations -- in my humble opinion, we have about eight people that sit there and go, from all over the country of different positions, ‘Eenie, meenie, miney, mo,’ and that’s how they come up with it. How’s that for an insult?"