The case for Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio to LSU
The prevailing wisdom around college football is that Mark Dantonio, Michigan State’s 60-year-old coach, is a “Spartan For Life."
There’s no reason to believe that he isn’t. He’s built Michigan State into a perennial Big Ten contender and he’s done it his way.
He’s well compensated — making $4.3 million per season after signing a six-year rolling contract extension before the 2016 season — and by all accounts he’s on great terms with the Michigan State administration.
LSU is reportedly probing the four active national championship-winning coaches in college football — Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, Bob Stoops, and Jimbo Fisher — for their vacant head coaching job. They will surely look towards Houston coach Tom Herman as well. Clemson’s Dabo Swinney will probably get a call and perhaps Louisville’s Bobby Petrino, too.
You can make the argument as to why all of those coaches would turn LSU down.
But LSU shouldn’t waste their time calling Saban or Meyer or Dabo or even Jimbo — they should go all-in on Dantonio.
And here’s the argument they should make, as told from the LSU perspective:
“Mark, you’re the best coach in college football. I’d like to see Nick Saban or Urban Meyer do what you’ve done at Michigan State. Saban had the chance and came down here. Smart guy, that Nick Saban. Man, I wish we could get him back.
"Anyway, you’re the best, definitely not Nick Saban, and you should be paid accordingly. It’s a travesty that you’re the fourth-highest paid coach in the Big Ten — James Franklin making more money than you? That’s ridiculous. That makes us angry here at LSU.
"What’s that line you have ‘We’re not selling hope, we’re selling results?’ We love that. How much does that cost to get? Name your number.
"Let’s do this: Nick Saban makes $7.1 million per season, and since he turned down our $10 million offer, we want to show you how highly we think of your work by paying you $8 million with a clause that says you will be the highest-paid coach in college football. You’re the best, we want the best, and we’re willing to pay the best."
“We know it’s not just about money — it’s about respect, and despite the fact that you’ve won three Big Ten titles and turned Michigan State into a college football powerhouse, you don’t get even half of the national respect you deserve.
"We think you’re going to always be overlooked at Michigan State. Sorry to say it, but with Jim Harbaugh and Urban in your division, you’re not going to get the attention that you deserve. Your team went to the College Football Playoff last year. What’s all we heard about this preseason? Harbaugh and Meyer. You’re not even the most beloved coach in your own state. It’s a shame and you know it hurts you on the recruiting trail — that would change, immediately, at LSU. You’d be the man down here, and if you achieve what we think you’ll achieve down here, you’ll go down as one of the all-time greats in the profession, and no one will overlook you again."
“Mark, you might be able to win a National Championship at Michigan State — if anyone could do it, it’s you. But again, we think you’re maxed out at MSU. You can coach anyone to be a Division 1 football player, but you can’t get the horses necessary to win in East Lansing. It’s not your fault. You’re doing an amazing job — you’re the best — but the recruiting base isn’t big enough and you have to compete for those few players with Urban and Harbaugh. That has to be taxing. It doesn’t have to be that hard.
"The talent in Louisiana is copious — there’s more than enough to go around. You have Texas next door — we’re going to clean up there — and the Southeast has more talent than it knows what to do with. We’re going to make sure you have all the money you want to hire the best staff possible — we know you’re a midwest guy, but we know you’ll be loved down here. People down here love results and that’s what you’ll bring. You can hire the best recruiters and coaches to get into every nook and cranny you want down here. We know that you like to find “your kind of guys” but the larger the base, the more of those guys you can find. You would be cooking with a fully stocked cabinet for the first time, Mark.
"We’re not saying it’s going to be easy — we know it’s not a ready-made situation down here, but we know that you wouldn’t want that, either. You like the challenge. But we think this path has less resistance and greater upside. We know it’s the back-end of the career for you — and we want to make sure that career includes a National Championship. You can beat Saban, and we’re going to give you the tools necessary to do it here at LSU.
"We also really enjoy the way Dantonio sounds with our Louisiana accents. It has a ring to it, don’t you think?
"So, Mark, whatcha say?"