Michigan State Football: Grading Mark Dantonio’s coaching tenure

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 05: Head coach Mark Dantonio of the Michigan State Spartans celebrates after beating the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Big Ten Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 5, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 05: Head coach Mark Dantonio of the Michigan State Spartans celebrates after beating the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Big Ten Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 5, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /
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There’s plenty of debate about the Mark Dantonio era of Michigan State football and what grade would it have received? The answer should be obvious.

With no live sports and no spring football to talk about, there have been plenty of Twitter sports debates and the latest has come in the form of a Mark Dantonio report card.

A question was posed by Ryan Schuiling on Twitter Monday that really caused a stir and foced everyone to truly sit and think.

What grade would you give Dantonio for his 13-year tenure at Michigan State?

The grades ranged from A to B+ with an option for B or lower, but obviously that was the least selected option.

Originally, I answered this poll quickly and gave it a B+ and the reason was simple: the last 3-4 years of the Dantonio era were not great. They left a sour taste in everyone’s mouths. But then I really got to thinking.

Was a B+ really a fair grade for everything Dantonio did for the program? Short-term, yes. Long-term, absolutely not.

I was guilty of recency bias and only thought of his bad moments in the past four seasons (outside of 2017) and quickly submitted that B+ grade. Sure, the end of his tenure wasn’t ideal, but he deserves nothing less than an A- for his tenure — and even that might be too low. He turned a dead program into a perennial contender and missed a bowl game just once in 13 years. For a program that was buried in the dirt after John L. Smith, that’s amazing work.

Not only did Dantonio turn Michigan State into a winner, he led the Spartans to a Rose Bowl for the first time in nearly two decades, Cotton Bowl and College Football Playoff. He won three Big Ten titles and made three Big Ten Championship Games as a division champion. He beat teams like Oregon, Ohio State, Georgia, Baylor, Stanford, TCU, Notre Dame and Boise State — and Michigan consistently — to help build his national brand. He produced countless All-Americans and even had two former walk-ons drafted — one in the first round.

Dantonio may not have been the best recruiter but he was an elite developer of talent. He turned a team of two and three-star players into Rose Bowl champs. He developed a former low-three-star quarterback into the winningest in program history and another into one of the highest-paid gunslingers in the NFL.

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Coach D won a fanbase over when it was ready to give up after John L. He deserves nothing less than an A- grade, at the very worst, for the job he did in East Lansing.