Mark Dantonio trying to create Midnight Madness atmosphere for spring game


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A long-standing tradition for Michigan State athletics is that of Midnight Madness for the basketball team. Coach Tom Izzo has turned it into a must-see event for his basketball program, often packing the Breslin Center to capacity. Coach Mark Dantonio is trying to create the same buzz for his football team and its annual spring game.

Michigan State is coming off consecutive top-five national ranking finishes and is looking to establish itself as a countrywide staple. Beginning last year, Dantonio has been soliciting for fans to come and enjoy the spring game, asking for huge turn outs any chance he could get. Coach D was able to have fans turn out to the tune of around 35,000, the most in his tenure. This year, Dantonio is hoping for a turnout of 50,000 fans, which would rank MSU in the top ten in attendance nationally.

The product that the Spartans has put on the field the past few seasons has been fantastic, and this year will be no different. Coach Dantonio knows what he has right now in terms of talent and success does not always come with his so he is trying to keep the momentum going in national buzz.

Last year Coach D’s main marketing ploy to have fans come to the stadium was by word of mouth. Speaking to reporters in interviews on TV, on the radio, and quotes for articles. It was very clear by the time the spring game rolled around what coach Dantonio’s expectations were for fan turnout. He fell short of his 50,000 mark but he did make a large dent into the sometimes nonexistent turnouts from the past.

This year was no different once again with his marketing approach, although he added a little wrinkle. Dantonio knows it will take more than just spreading the word to have the turnout he wants. This year he has implemented two “practice” days that students are able to participate in with the team.

For a sports junkie like me, I would love to have the opportunity to step out on the field and go through the same drills that future NFL players like Connor Cook and Shilique Calhoun are going through and see how poorly (yes, poorly) I stack up.

For the second “practice” day Dantonio also put in the addition that the first 1,000 students that sign up will be able to run out of the tunnel for the spring game and form a line for the Spartan players as they run out. One of the things players miss the most after their playing careers are over is the roar and electricity of the crowd when you run onto the field; there are few things quite like it.

Jan 1, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Michigan State Spartans wide receiver R.J. Shelton (12) during the game against the Baylor Bears in the 2015 Cotton Bowl Classic at AT&T Stadium. The Spartans defeated the Bears 42-41. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

This will obviously not be the same atmosphere as a Michigan-Michigan State game, but who wouldn’t love the opportunity to run through the tunnel and onto the field at Spartan Stadium in front of 50,000 people (possibly)?

That sounds like a once in a lifetime opportunity to me and yet another way Dantonio can create a buzz around this game and the program he built

Dantonio knows the more people he can bring to this game, and the more buzz it creates outside of East Lansing, will be for the betterment of his program.

More national attention for Spartan football means life becomes a little bit easier in various areas.  It becomes easier to recruit, a popular spring game will also get the attention of various media members who, in turn, can bring national attention to the program from their respective media outlets.

None of this is a bad thing to get Michigan State football right where Coach D wants it.

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