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MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 27, 2006
MODERATOR: I'd like to introduce the chairman of the Board of Trustees of Michigan State University, the Honorable David Porteous.
DAVID PORTEOUS: Good afternoon. Two years ago, when our board hired Dr. Lou Anna Simon as our president of Michigan State University, we were rock solid in that hiring. When Lou Anna sat down with the board and said, We are going to begin a search for a new football coach, she laid out a process and talked to the board about the process. We were rock solid in our support of Lou Anna Simon's leadership and her vision for the process.
For the past approximate month, periodically President Simon has outlined to the board the process that has been undertaken and kept us abreast of that process. We continue and have continued to be rock solid. It was not until yesterday that the board was aware that she would be making a recommendation this morning of Mark as the next football coach.
Our board met this morning. We were rock solid in our support of that selection. President Simon provided leadership for an outstanding search process that has resulted in an outstanding coach for Michigan State University.
It is my pleasure now to introduce President Lou Anna Simon, the president of Michigan State University, to talk with you about the process.
LOU ANNA SIMON: Thank you very much.
A week ago I sent out an email to the entire Spartan Nation outlining the search process and the criteria we were using. I did that in order that all of you would know what we were looking for in the process that we were using to select the next coach because I had been listening to all the talk radio and all the chat rooms, some of what you all said didn't exactly match my understanding of reality. So I felt it was important for me to outline those criteria.
This process has been deliberate and very thorough. We have talked to many, many people around the country. We have had many people interested in the position of coach at Michigan State University. But when you think about the criteria that were on that list, then you look at the individual that we've selected and are announcing today, with a unanimous vote of the board of trustees this morning, we obviously have someone with extraordinary experience, 27 years of college football experience, being a head coach, bringing global leadership and experience. A defensive coordinator building strategy and game plans. He's been places that have achieved the objectives that Michigan State University hopes to achieve. He's been there, he's done that, and at every place he's been, he's been one of the people who has been the most respected in a coaching staff. You know about all the positions so I'm not going to list the places that he's been.
We also wanted somebody who would be a great teacher as well as a great individual role model for our players, someone who simply walked the walk with respect to the values, the passion, the work ethic necessary to achieve at this level.
We wanted someone who had successful networks around the country and who had built them in a way that people really did respect him and we could call on those networks in order to help assure the success of Spartan football, a person who was really above reproach in ethics and values, a person of great integrity, and someone who really understood what it meant to be part of team MSU, who wants to be here. While it's extraordinary difficult to say good-bye, particularly for a team that's going to a Bowl game, our coach did that today, and his contract is effective today. This is our coach, our person, a part of team MSU.
Now, he is an individual that understands what the Spartan football traditions is all about, he's been here. If you could have been part of the welcome in the Duffy Building a bit ago, you would have known that he's greeting old friends, people who respect him, people who he respects. If you'd have been with him a minute ago and listened to his talk with the team members, you would have understood that the next day of Spartan football tradition starts today, the expectations start today.
So when you look at all the criteria, all the process, the other thing that we wanted to do was a process that was really above reproach as a process. I relied - not because I understand X's and O's - on the people that have enormous confidence in: athletic director Mason, associate athletic director Mark Hollis, coach Tom Izzo, and a former Spartan player and NFL star Alan Haller, as well as the three individuals listed in the memo who would provide us a commentary to make sure that the process was above reproach, that we were asking the right questions, we were talking to the right people, we were doing the right thing.
As Trustee Porteous said, as far as I know, there was never a candidate picked except in some of your minds because we did everything we could to respect the process of other institutions. I have enormous respect for what the University of Cincinnati is trying to do under their president. She is a friend. We wanted to treat another institution in the same way we would like them to treat us, pure and simple. We could not do that until after the last game of the season on Saturday. So there were no factions, there were no other choices. There was a group meeting at 11:00 on Sunday morning, a conversation with the board on Sunday, and a contract signed by Sunday evening because this is the future of Michigan State University.
It's now my pleasure to introduce Trustee Ferguson, vice chair of the board.
JOEL FERGUSON: We have an extremely modest president in Lou Anna Simon. As you know, during the season, we weren't doing very well. We could have been, like a lot of programs, we'd wait till the end of the season. But this program and this university had the vision to know that once they had made the decision they were going to make a decision, to make it the date we made it.
As you know, yesterday is the first day that coaches go out and contact players. Our goal was not to get caught to where we made a decision after the season to where we would then go through our process for the next three or four weeks, and by the time that the coach is in place, he couldn't contact anyone. That would have been a terrible mistake. It would have been put handcuffs on the incoming coach because we would end up losing a class.
Lou Anna Simon, your leadership and your ability to have the vision to make a decision like that is going to pay off in many ways for this university.
I want to state this, too. I'm not attempting to be sensitive, but I can't ignore things that have been said. Mark Dantonio is not a compromise candidate. Mark Dantonio is absolutely the best fit for Michigan State University. He was a unanimous choice by this board not because anyone else had any flaws, because the other candidates were excellent also. He just happened to be the best. That's why we picked him.
I'll say this, too. A couple individuals who are former Spartans who wanted the job both made the phone call and said they're standing four square with Mark Dantonio to make certain this program is extremely successful going forward.
All I can say to you, Mark, knowing that we have you as our coach, the best is yet to come. Thank you.
RON MASON: It's a real pleasure, indeed, to have a president and a board that set a direction, one that we could follow. I believe the criteria and the process was due diligence and made it a lot easier for us and my group to interview people.
My group with Tom, Alan and Mark, had an opportunity to talk with all the people. We're probably the only ones here that did. Believe me, there were a lot of fantastic coaches that were interested in coming to Michigan State.
What we had to do is select what we thought was the creme de la creme, and we were very fortunate to be able to do that. Mark Dantonio stood above the rest, without any question, it was our choice. When it was brought to President Simon, it was her choice. When it was taken to the board, it was their choice. We're all on board.
I think this is a wonderful day for Michigan State athletics and Michigan State University. We're very proud today to be able to have Mark here with us. I know you're going to enjoy hearing from him.
Before we do, I think we have Kaleb Thornhill, please.
KALEB THORNHILL: I just want to thank the administration because they called me and Jehuu Caulcrick to talk to us about the situation, what kind of coach we expected, the quality that he should bring to this program. I just want to thank you guys for involving us, letting us have a say in what we thought would be beneficial for this program.
I think they did a great job of picking a good guy. Hopefully he with bring us to the next level. I think he will. He's been to MSU before, so I think he knows a little of the tradition, what it takes to win here. He knows this area, which is a good thing. He knows the history, how important Spartan football is.
I think we're on the right track and we're going to hit this off good. Thank you.
LOU ANNA SIMON: What I'd like to do is ask Mark Hollis, Tom Izzo and Alan Haller to come up here for a moment and then make additional comments they might like.
You can expect that a person like Mark Hollis would be directly involved in this. I must tell you that I've known no one who is more thorough in knowing people, statistics, patterns, whatever you'd ask for about a football coach, I would put him up against any one of you in terms of the data. He has been just a tireless worker over the course of these last three and four weeks in terms of assuring that Michigan State University had the right coach at the right time.
Alan Haller is an individual who did this sort of over and above his normal responsibilities within the department of public safety here. It wasn't until I sent out the memo about a week ago that his colleagues knew that he was involved in the process. That goes to show you how discreet, how aboveboard in terms of the ethics of this process.
Then Tom Izzo and I go way back. I think we share a deep love for Michigan State University, its success in all aspects. If you would think about a basketball coach who has taken the amount of time that Tom has, to call people, to get on airplanes, to assure we picked the right person at the right time, I don't think you're going to find a basketball coach in America who would care about their institution as much as Tom Izzo to do that.
This team, along with Ron Mason, is an enormous credit to Michigan State University. I'd like to have each of them make a comment.
ALAN HALLER: Thank you. When we started this process, I can say that there weren't any candidates -- we didn't have any foregone conclusions we were going to select a certain person. I can honestly say the selection process selected the best candidate. Coach Dantonio stood out with all the candidates that we talked to. It was a very thorough process. It was complete. There were no foregone conclusions.
I can honestly say, being a former player, being a Spartan, loving this place the way I do, that this is the person that's going to take us back to where we need to be. He's going to bring back the intensity, the toughness, the grit that every Spartan in this country has the characteristics of. We have the best coach, the best person for this job.
We will return to greatness, whatever that is, but I know we will be tough and we will represent what Michigan State stands for, and that's hard-working people. Thank you.
MARK HOLLIS: First of all, you've heard a lot about the criteria. It was a process we stuck to very rigidly as we went through this entire situation. President Simon spoke to many of the criteria that we addressed. Also with the Black Coaches Association, with the NCAA Minorities and Opportunities Committee. We had full disclosure and graded out with straight A's in our process being thorough, complete and inclusive.
The one criteria maybe nobody does understand, it was Tom Izzo's when he said, If you want a good coach, make sure his name ends in an O. We added that one to our list (laughter). Somebody has to laugh in here for a minute.
But in all seriousness, as we went through our criteria, we looked at it over and over every direction, there were a lot of outstanding candidates. There was one that shined through all the way. That was Coach Dantonio. I as a Spartan alum am really, really proud to have him leading our football program.
I think from our staff, our fans, our alumni, this is a chance. One Spartan is the greatest warrior there is, but all the Spartans together, we're going to be unbeatable. That's what Coach Dantonio is going to bring to Michigan State University. Thank you.
COACH TOM IZZO: I know, what the hell is a basketball coach doing here (laughter)?
You know, Lou Anna said it best: I was a small part of it in a ways because I have a day job, and yet the information and the process, having watched the process, learning it, reading through what I read through, I got a chance to call and talk to some incredible people, but if you want Dantonio's blood type, bone marrow type, Hollis had it down. He's been kind of covered from head to toe, and so have all the other candidates.
I would like to add my congratulations to Mark and Becky and their kids. I said my criteria was twofold in this whole process: keeping our Spartan Nation, as a lot of you call it, and our immediate family, which is our university people, not only on the same page but really pulling for the common goal. Everybody think he we've accomplished a lot. I know Ron has accomplished a lot. We accomplished it because of the people in this room, because of some of these former players, Spartans way in the back that have meant so much to this place, because they got on a bandwagon. I don't mean a bandwagon that was just successful. For me it was one that just started.
If we do the same with this guy, he's got great pedigree and great character. If you have those two things with a great work ethic, everything else kind of falls in place as long as we're all with him.
Mark, Becky, congratulations. Lou Anna, Joel, Dave, congratulations to you and the rest of the board that's here. The guys that were on the committee with us, a team is never one or two. A team is a big group. I hope that those of you that have been so gracious and have been a participant on my team, I want you to know, Mark, I was on this self-serving because, as I told Jimmy, Mark Montgomery and Dwayne Stephens, I was part of George Perles' team. What I meant by that is when I recruited the greatest recruiting Montgomery, (indiscernible), and Peplowski, I was ranked 1 or 2 in the country. It was the invite into the football locker room for that game against Indiana when we clinched our Rose Bowl bid, it was watching those three 18, 17-year-olds at the time running up and down the field with roses in their mouths. That was the only thing that Pep could find to eat at the time, with roses in their mouth and realizing what an impact football truly has on not just an institution and community but my program.
So a little bit of it is self-serving. I will be putting that same pressure on you because I think together we can get a hell of a lot done here. That's what we plan on doing. Congrats. I thank all of you. Thank you for how well this search has been handled.
LOU ANNA SIMON: This morning when the board acted, we had eight individuals, two of them on the phone because of other commitments. Trustee Cook and Trustee Nugent. The other board members were there. Because of other commitments today, Scott Romney, who was here this morning, is no longer with us. I'd like to acknowledge Trustee McNamara, Trustee Foster, Trustee Gonzales who are with us. Thank you very much for being a part of this and having the opportunity to meet Coach Dantonio a little bit earlier.
When you get to this point where all of you have all the data, all the statistics, I know from my own experience that Team Simon is extraordinary important, and Dr. Roy Simon is as glad as I am to have this coaching search over. There really is a key part of a family. You get a sense of a person through that family. I would like to have Becky Dantonio introduce our next coach.
BECKY DANTONIO: The Dantonio family feels so blessed to be here. Our girls are here with us. They're thrilled. We sat down as a family and made this decision. It was unanimous. We said, We got to go. We've been Spartans for a long time. This place is very special for us. We were here for six years. We have so many great friends. They have just overwhelmed us with their love and their support. We're just so thrilled to be here. We're grateful for this opportunity.
I'm supposed to introduce my husband. He's a great football coach. He's got great experience. You guys know all that. But really what I want to tell you, he's an amazing person. He's got a huge heart. He loves his players. He loves what he does. He has a passion for this game, being the best he can be, making these players be the best they can be. You got yourself one heck of a great football coach. We're just so happy to be a part of this. Thank you for allowing this. We look forward to great things here and great times.
My husband, Mark Dantonio.
COACH MARK DANTONIO: Thank you very much. Thank you, Becky, and everybody else. Very appreciative. This is a dream come true for me and our family. We still lay on Spartan blankets at home. We have a lot of things from Michigan State that are really just cherished as part of our past.
I want to especially thank Michigan State University and the entire process and how they went about their work. I was at the University of Cincinnati. They took the time to wait for me as a person out of respect for the University of Cincinnati and the job that we were doing there. I appreciate that very, very much. That to me says immense, enormous things about credibility and principles, the way things should be done correctly.
I want to thank Tom Izzo after a basketball game coming down to Cincinnati on Saturday night and just being there for support and helping me find my way. He's been a great friend since 1995 when I first came here to Michigan State. Mark Hollis, Alan, everybody else. So many of the different people I've seen since walking in the doors, it's great to come back and it's great to be home, to be a part of this tradition.
When I talk about tradition, when I was at Ohio State, I had the opportunity to go to the University of Cincinnati, it was a big step for the Dantonio family, to go become a head football coach. I got very close to our players. I had 105 guys I had to say good-bye to this morning at 7 a.m. We really had not made the decision until yesterday late, very late. It was very, very difficult.
But I appreciate everything that our players have done at the University of Cincinnati because I didn't make one tackle or one catch. I just provided the leadership. We had great coaches. We had people in the right place getting the job done. I appreciate the administration down there, the way they handled things on this end. I want to publicly thank them.
It's tremendous to be a Spartan. To me, I know the phrase 'boldness by design' exists here right now. I can tell you as a Spartan, whenever I walked into any school in America, whether that was in Michigan, Ohio, the East Coast, in Florida, Texas, California, I walked in with boldness because I knew I represented something that was special. I knew I represented something that had history behind it, had tradition behind it, had championships behind it, a place that was nationally known for its athletics, not just basketball and football, but for its entire athletic program. I am so, so proud to be here today, to represent Michigan State University in this capacity.
I'm very fortunate to have learned from some great coaches that I've been around. I worked for Earle Bruce, worked for Jim Young when I was a graduate assistant. I've worked for Jim Tressel two times, Nick Saban who was here with Bobby Williams in his first year. I had the opportunity to go to the University of Cincinnati and do it our way with great coaches.
But I always talked about three things that I thought was very critical to success as a football program. It's really the same things that Nick talked about when he was here. It's the same things that probably Alan heard when he was here playing for him. But there's three things that take no ability that everybody here could do, can do in their own profession, can do in school or whatever else you're trying to do. You have to have a great amount of toughness. It has to be mental as much as physical. It has to come through play after play after play, class after class, test after test. You have to have mental toughness. You have to be able to stand there when everybody else is doing the wrong thing and do the right thing. That takes toughness. That's something that has to be talked about daily, has to be instilled in people from the get-go. They get it from their family, they get it from their most trusted people, they get it from their high school coaches, their coaches when they were young growing up. I think it's very, very important that we understand that nothing is going to come easy. Nothing is easy in life.
The second thing is we have to have great effort at everything we do. You have to want to be the best at what you want to do. You have to want to be the best. You have to want to take risks to be the best and to step out of your comfort zone to be the best. It was very difficult for me today at the University of Cincinnati, but I had the opportunity to step into this environment and to compete with the best in the United States in the Big 10 conference.
The players that we will bring here will also be able to compete against the best there is in college football. It takes great effort. It doesn't happen easy. It happens one day at a time. It happens one play at a time. It again has to be talked about.
The last thing I want to instill in our football program is you have to know what to do. You have to know what to do so you can play fast. I was with Coach Tressel I think it was 2001. He said to me, When to we play the best? I said, When we play fast, that's when we play the best. He said, When do we play the fastest? I said, When we know exactly what to do.
I think that's the same in life, the same in the classroom and everything else. I think those three intangibles that take no ability will carry us through.
My vision here is to win championships. That's my vision. That was my vision when we went to the University of Cincinnati. I'd like to think that we left the University of Cincinnati a better place than when we got there.
Our vision when we went to Ohio State was to win championships. Our vision when we were here at Michigan State the first time was to win the championship. I believe that can happen here. I believe the resources are here to do that. I believe that there are players in the Michigan area, the surrounding states, to do that. I feel like we have instant credibility in recruiting. I've recruited Chicago, I've recruited Detroit, Michigan, all across Ohio, on the East Coast, Florida, Texas, California. That's me personally as a recruiter. I have personal relationships with individuals out there that can help.
I asked our players to develop in five different ways. I've shared that with them today. But the first thing, I think they're the cornerstones of who we are as a program, what we'll try to develop, what I try and develop every day, I try and do every day, I want me children to do. I want them first to be good people and make good choices, to be morally correct. I'll stand up here today and tell you that my faith is very, very important to me. Our players will have an opportunity to express that faith at any time they wish to do so.
We want to be correct in the way we handle ourselves. That's a personal choice. So many times I think people now have incredible freedoms as young people. They leave home for the first time, they come to a major college, there's all types of temptation there for them. They have to choose to be right. That's something that we have to talk about and carry with us as people because we really are role models. When you wear a Spartan helmet, when you're a Spartan, you're distinguished a little bit differently.
Second thing is I want our family to be together. I talk about family, I talk about a lot of people in this room. It's important that our players' families come together, they know me, our coaches personally. I want to always be able to reach back to somebody who is important in their life and touch them. I want to know when they have problems at home. I want to know when they have problems here, that there's somebody I can call and contact and can be a support to them.
Same thing with the Spartan family. It's a huge Spartan family, it's huge. I don't know where it's at right now, but my job and my aim is to bring all the Spartans together, all together in one big, bold push. It's going to take all of us and everybody here to help to get us to where we want to go.
I can't do this alone. I can't do this alone. What I asked our players, our program to do at Cincinnati, I think it's very important, whether you're a manager, a trainer, a football player, you're the starter, you're the ninth guy on the team, the president of the university, you all need to show up with passion, you all need to show up with energy, you need to impact somebody else because that's a personal choice. So family will be very, very important to us, as well.
We need to get bigger, stronger faster to get to where we want to go. We need to be coached at the highest level. Regardless of where we have to go to find that expertise, football is a cutting-edge type of game. It's very innovative. Things are constantly changing in the game. I can remember playing against Northwestern in 2000 right here. Boom, all of a sudden they had 500 yards of offense because they used a different type of offense. I can remember playing against them in 2001 at Ohio State. Because of changes, different defensive schemes, being able to stop them.
The game of football is changing. We will keep abreast of that constantly and try and do everything we can to make our players successful on the field to give them the resources that they need to be a successful football coach and player.
I also think that recruiting ties into that. We need to be able to recruit players that can play at the highest level, players that can play at the highest level. That means players that can play at the next level. That needs to be a goal here. I believe we can do that because the resources and the tradition is here.
The next thing I want our players to do is to graduate. That will have the biggest impact on their lives, more than any professional football contract, for the most part, that will have the biggest impact on their lives. Our academics here will be taken very, very seriously. I constantly challenge our coaches, that they're internal guidance counselors, they need to know their players inside and out academically. They need to have a feel for them of where they are at academically and what they need to do. We need to gradually approach that and help our players succeed in that area so they can be successful.
Next was we want to help our community and always be involved in our community. I think that's the biggest reason I coach. I took the Cincinnati job because I wanted to be a light in that city, I wanted to do something for people that were less fortunate, wanted to reach out to people. I think that here at Michigan State University, I was here back in the late '90s, our assistant admissions director would always talk to our recruits. One thing that he always said at the very end of his presentation, he would always say, Give me a place to stand and I can move the world.
Michigan State University, you have that place to stand. I can stand before you today and acknowledge that I have a place to stand. I stand where great coaches have been. Coach Perles, Coach Saban, Duffy Daugherty, John L. Smith, Bobby Williams. It's a tough job to be a college football coach. I can tell you that these are great people with great character and they've had their wins and they've had their losses, but it's not an easy job. I want to reach out in the community because they really don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. I think that's very, very important to understand. They really don't know -- they don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. I think it's important they recognize that.
The last thing went to do, probably the most important to a lot of people that are here, I wear this championship ring very, very few times, but I wear it for a reason. I wear it to symbolize what can happen when you have the resources, when you have the players, and most importantly when you have the commitment. To win a national championship at Ohio State after a 7-5 year, win a national championship, I believe the record was 14-0, that didn't happen because of ability. That did not happen because of ability. It happened because of a mindset. We won so many close games that year. I think we won eight games in less than a touchdown, seven or eight. It happens because of a commitment from the players, a belief in values, a belief in themselves. Once you start doing it, it continues. I believe that that can happen here. I truly believe that or I would not have come.
Michigan State has been very, very dear to us because of the people here. They've extended themselves to us as people from day one. We appreciate that. It has been a dream of ours to come back here. We're very excited. It's a tough day for me. My wife kept saying, We're not going to a funeral. But it was tough. Very excited to be here as your head coach. I'll just take any questions that you have right now, then we can go from there guys. Tomorrow is our first day.
Q. Your candidacy from the outset appeared to be a top-horse kind of candidacy. How did you sort out the fact so many people had identified you as potentially a coach here, that you were being talked about, in many cases being approached by many of us to either say one way or another you were interested or not? How were you able to partition all of that from your immediate responsibilities at Cincinnati for the last four weeks?
COACH MARK DANTONIO: Well, I try and do things the right way. I try and do things on principle. I didn't think it was right, to be honest with you. I wanted to give people the latitude, people here that had been here in the past. I knew some of my good friends were involved in this football job.
I also had a job to do. I didn't think it was fair to my football team or our players getting ready to play big games on the road at West Virginia, at home against Rutgers, then at Connecticut. I did not think it was fair to our players to cheat them, to go talk behind their backs to anybody and campaign for this football job.
I think it goes without question that I'm from here, I would be interested in the job. I first learned how interested Michigan State was through secondhand, sources, Jim Tressel, Nick Saban. That really came towards the end of this last week, middle of the week. Some of the other people that are very close to me in the coaching profession, athletic director profession. It was through secondhand people that I finally figured out that I was deeply involved in this process.
But my rationalization all the time is to focus on the job that I have. I have a great job. I had a great job. I have an outstanding job now. I always want to put my time and effort into that particular job, focus everything and all my being on my players and on the task at hand. I thought to do anything differently would take focus away from the University of Cincinnati. I thought that would be unfair, so I didn't want to get involved in that.
LOU ANNA SIMON: I really need to be very cautious here. He was not a dark horse candidate by the institution. He was a candidate that had a commitment to his school that we respected. We respect the institution, we respect his values. As a result of that, he was interviewed later in the process because of that commitment.
But to interpret his candidacy at dark horse, whatever words have been used, I think is really unfair to the process and unfair to him.
Q. You've recruited here for Michigan State in the past, recruited against Michigan State. When would you tell a young man being recruited by Michigan, Ohio State and Notre Dame, why should he come to Michigan State?
COACH MARK DANTONIO: He could come to Michigan State because he can win championships here, you have the opportunity to play against the best. You're going to put 78,000 people in this stadium here, you're going to play in front of a national television audience, play big-time football. You'll have a chance to be a part of a great tradition. The facilities here. There are so many different reasons. You want to be a veterinarian, you should come here. Criminal justice, engineering, education, those aspects of this school. All the different things, all the past.
You know, history is the best indicator of the future. It's been done before. There's tremendous love for Michigan State University. I know that state it split right down the middle. If it really were to be known, it's probably a lot more green, and getting a lot more greener today than it was yesterday.
Q. When you speak of the family, the Spartan family, without throwing darts at anyone else, do you sense there is a division here that exists that you need to repair? Is that part of your job in bringing this family together like it used to be?
COACH MARK DANTONIO: Well, I don't know. I can't speak to that because I've been gone. I can't speak to that. As I said earlier, I focus on my task at hand, wherever I've been.
I can just tell you there are so many loyal Spartans around this state and in this country, so many people that have been proud of Michigan State heritage. I believe they will all come together for one common cause. If they were divisive before, people will have opinions, but I really am not involved in that, I have no idea about that. I know how I've always been perceived wherever I've gone. Even after I left Michigan State, when I ran into Michigan State people, I know how I have been perceived as a person. I was one of them.
Q. President Simon, can you help us a little bit on the chronology of how Mark was approached, how this occurred, and also if you waited until after his season to interview him, were any other candidates, specifically the likes of Brian Kelly, interviewed before the completion of their seasons?
LOU ANNA SIMON: It was up to the individual people about when the athletic director would release them, their own personal ethics with respect to the timing of the interviews. That included sitting head coaches as well as coordinators and other people we talked to. We worked through, as you know, a consultant, Chuck Neinas, who made some initial contacts with us in terms of liaison. Other contacts were made by Ron Mason and Mark Hollis in terms of setting up an interview schedule that made sense. It was really trying to be respectful of the institution and the institution's preferences about engagement.
COACH MARK DANTONIO: I want to address that, as well. When this thing went down during the season, I think there are some people out here that directly called me personally, asked me about my candidacy at Michigan State. I refrained from contacting you back out of respect for my university, the job that I was doing there.
The credibility is there. The credibility has been there throughout the whole situation.
Q. Philosophy question. Can you give us your synopsis of your offensive and defensive philosophies? What sort of football do you expect to bring? Staff-wise do you have coordinators in place? Bringing anybody from Cincinnati? Keeping anybody?
COACH MARK DANTONIO: I think that's tough to say right now on this first day. I'm a very loyal person. I will certainly talk to our staff initially, see where they're at with their thoughts. Depends on who would have the possibility, if someone would have a possibility to be named at Cincinnati. We'll defer that question till later.
As far as our offensive and defensive philosophies, I believe in stopping the run on defense, I believe in having the ability to run the football and be two-dimensional on offense. You have to be able to run the football to some extent. We have to do that because that speaks to toughness. That speaks to toughness, and this is a tough game. You need to be challenged. We need to get to that point.
Q. Michigan State sits within about a four-hour radius of Notre Dame, Ohio State and Michigan. You recruit against them, play against them. What exactly appeals to you about that challenge?
COACH MARK DANTONIO: I think when you have the opportunity to compete against the best, you can become the best. When you have an opportunity to play Notre Dame, Michigan, Ohio State, I mean, they're where they are right now. But you have an opportunity to play against those people, you have opportunities to measure up. That's what we've done everywhere I've been. You try to measure up. You play with a lot of passion. You play with a lot of energy. So that's exciting to me because as a coach and player, I think you always want to challenge yourself to be the best. That is something that's very exciting to me. That's one of the reasons I stand here today and talk with you as the head coach here, because of the opportunity to be playing against those people on a yearly basis.
I believe there are players out there in America that will gravitate towards that challenge, as well.
Q. With the amount of turnover that's taken place at this position the past few years, there's a perception this is not necessarily a great position, a graveyard of coaches. What are your thoughts on that? How do you go about changing that perception?
COACH MARK DANTONIO: See all these people here with all these cameras? I would say that perception is inaccurate. This is a tough job. Every job in America is a tough job. They're having problems at Alabama, having problems at North Carolina, North Carolina State, Arizona State. They're having problems. Everybody goes through problems. It's how you handle those problems and problem solve that will make the difference.
I didn't come here to be dragged into the graveyard. I came here to win, to win championships. I know, I've been around football long enough, how to do that. I feel very, very confident because I know that our players will play. I know that we'll recruit to the level that we have to to be successful here as well.
Q. Could you share what you said to the team this morning and also give us an assessment of the personnel you're inheriting.
COACH MARK DANTONIO: What I said to the players today, it's very, very difficult. Obviously something was on ESPN I was coming here so a lot of them had that idea what was going to go down. I talked to them about change. Change is very, very far-reaching as I said earlier. It encompasses everybody. I want them to embrace the change, remember who they are, thank them for everything that they've done. I told them do not be afraid, don't be discouraged, be strong.
But it was an emotional time for me. That's why we did it in private.
Q. The MSU players?
COACH MARK DANTONIO: I really don't assess players right now until I watch them. I think they have some outstanding players back. But I've been coaching college football till last Saturday, involved in our own program. I've not seen Michigan State on film. I'm in the process of crossing over. But I know that at one point they were undefeated playing Notre Dame and the Notre Dame game was in hand. I expect there's quality players here and there's plenty of ability here.
Q. You mentioned some very successful coaches, national championship coaches, who have been mentors for you. Can you share with us the most important thing you've learned from Nick Saban and Jim Tressel?
COACH MARK DANTONIO: From Coach Saban I think what I learned is defense. I mean, I learned a tremendous amount of football, practice organization, all the things that go along with the X's and O's of football, determination, tenacity, all the things that go with football. I learned a tremendous amount of that from him. It was a learning experience. I'm a much better coach for it. I feel like we almost talked a different language.
From Jim Tressel, I learned patience - hopefully I learned patience. I learned compassion for people. Everybody does it a little bit different way, but I can tell you that I learned you have to be able to harness the human spirit at some point if you want your players to play well, to play above their abilities. You have to harness the human spirit. I think that's what he's able to do. We do a lot of things like he does them.
I can tell you when I first had an evaluation with him after the 2001 season, he got a folder out, he pulled out something, flipped it to me and said, Here is when you married Becky, your invitation. Here is when Kristen was born, Lauren was born, here is your goals in '86. This is 2001. What a great impression that made on me as a person.
They don't care how much I know as a football coach right now, and they won't until I care about them as people. I think that just crosses over from player to player. I think that crosses over from coach to coach, coach to player, everybody in this room. Regardless of what I know as a football coach, until I connect with a person heart to heart, that's when you get your best results.
Q. With all the coaching changes that have gone along recently, many of the coaches are being let go of after two, three, maybe four years. The five-year plan appears to be dead. Do you feel you have any pressure to win right away?
COACH MARK DANTONIO: They got great fishing holes here in Michigan, okay? I'm not worried about that at all. I'm very secure in who I am as a person, who I am as a coach. This is an opportunity of a lifetime and a dream come true for us. We're going to do the very best we can. We will do this very, very slowly. I've always believed whether you're a football player or whatever you do for a living, when things start to get complimented, things start to overwhelm you, you slow the game down.
We'll take our time. We'll build this the right way. We'll develop relationships with recruits. We'll develop relationships with coaches. We already have strong relationships with a lot of people in Michigan, already have strong relationships throughout the Midwest. We'll go very slowly and walk very boldly and carry a big stick. That's where we're coming from.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much.
COACH MARK DANTONIO: Thank you very much. Thrilled to be here.
End of FastScripts