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December 8, 2013

Mark Dantonio

COACH DANTONIO:  I think it was just a couple hours ago.  It's great to be back here in East Lansing.  Again, I think I just reiterate a little bit what I talked about last night.  You know, just a surreal moment for us, I think, as a football team and as people.  It's a special moment for all of us that I think we'll remember for the rest of our life.  Can't say enough about our football team and the way that they went about their business last night and the resiliency, again, that they displayed.
When you look at that football game, if I remember it, not really watched the film or anything like that yet, but it was almost like three different games.  You had the first part of it where I thought we were sort of in control and started fast, and Ohio State is an outstanding football team and they played extremely well, second quarter and third quarter.
After they got their go‑ahead score, I thought the big run by Langford sort of gave us the momentum push that we needed to get back into it and the big fourth down run by Cook ended up kicking that field goal.¬† But after that it sort of went our way from a momentum standpoint.¬† And I think that that ended up carrying the day for us.¬† Exciting football game.¬† Thrilled to be going to the Rose Bowl.¬† It's a goal we set when we came here.¬† I can't tell you how many times at 5:30 in the morning, or 6:30 in the morning or 10 at night, whatever we were working out throughout the times, day‑in and day‑out, winter work out, summer practices, spring ball that we would not put our hands into a group of people, about 120 people, and on the count of one, to say Big Ten champions.¬† And to be able to do that and see that dream come to fruition is something that you can carry for rest of your life.
So extremely excited about it.  An opportunity to play Stanford.  It will be a great one.  Another great challenge for us, as I indicated before, we had three goals this year, one was to get to the championship game, the next was to win it, and the third was to finish our season, and win our bowl game, regardless of where we played.
So with that, we've won 14 of the last 15 games, so there is a strong belief by our football team and our players, and we're just excited about the next opportunity for us.  So I'll take some questions and go from there.

Q.  Mark, for you to have been able to bring this to your program can you just talk about from a personal standpoint, the Rose Bowl to be there and be able to say that and have that be tangible?
COACH DANTONIO:  Yeah, I had an opportunity to go to the Rose Bowl at Ohio State in 1984 as a graduate assistant.  I remember walking on the field at that point in time, and it was just an amazing feeling.  That was 1984 and I've not been back there.  I had the opportunity to play in a number of BCS games before, two others.
Obviously, this was the first time as a Spartan.  It's going to be a special moment when we walk out on that field.  But for me, personally, I think everyone has goals.  Everybody has dreams; coaches are no different.  I think they set their standards very high and they try to climb that ladder, and that's been the ladder that we've all tried to climb, including myself since coming back here.  That's why we came.  When you set down and write down your goals and think about the goals in whatever job that you take or occupation, you're going to have some different things that you want to try to accomplish.  That was one of the things we were trying to accomplish.  That was the primary objective.  The next was a National Championship.  We've always thought to dream big.
As I said, as we sit here I don't even know, because of what the BCS says.¬† But I think we're probably number 4, so that's exciting.¬† So you're in the hunt.¬† With the playoff system next year, that will be very excite to go all of us.¬† So the possibilities remain.¬† Doesn't mean it's going to happen.¬† We were 7 and 16 last year.¬† It just gives you a great example of the difference between good and great is not very much.¬† And all you have to do is look around.¬† You can see Auburn playing for the National Championship as well, and they were 0‑8 last year in the conference, I believe.¬† So it's just a tremendous job by them as well.¬† But you can turn it and people believe you can turn things.

Q.  You're a person that principle matters a lot.  How much does it not only mean going to the Rose Bowl, but going against another school that does it right like you do?
COACH DANTONIO:  Well, I think Coach Shaw is an outstanding person.  And probably a lot of similarities in the way, from what I understand in the way that their program is run.  Hopefully we're doing it the right way, but I got to know him a little bit last year on the Nike trip, and just a solid person, great person.  I hear tremendous things about him as an individual.
Randy Hart is there; he's a guy that really, he always points to people‑‑ he's their defensive line coach.¬† You always point to individuals who sort of take you places in your life and your career.¬† I think all of us do that.¬† And Randy is probably one of the five or six people that when I look back at my coaching career, when I didn't have an opportunity, he made it happen for me to go to Ohio State as a graduate assistant.¬† I worked with him at Purdue.¬† He was the defensive line coach there, and at that point in time he moved to Ohio State.¬† And sort of made that opportunity happen for me.¬† So I always look at him as one of those guys.¬† I constantly hear from Randy over the years, and great people, great coach.

Q.  Just wondering how much sleep you got last night, and what you did after the game.  What have the last several hours been like for you, if you can give us some details?
COACH DANTONIO:  Yeah, I got to bed about 4:30, so went back to the hotel and I just sort of hung out in the lobby, actually.  I wanted to be around the players and their families.  There were obviously a lot of other people there, and that's fine too.  But to sit there and talk to Jack Allen's family, and to see all the different families that I came in contact with and their parents.  You don't have a lot of opportunities to do that, because you don't see them after games, usually.  They go in their direction, we sort of go in our direction with recruits and whatever the case so to have that opportunity to do that was special, and just the overwhelming joy that people had with their children, their sons and with our family.  Our entire family was there as well.  A lot of our coaches families were there.  So I spent the time sitting and talking and sort of pinching myself a little bit, I guess.  So it was nice, very special.

Q.  Maybe you just answered this.  But I noticed last night was there a moment in the last 20 hours where it really hit you?
COACH DANTONIO:  Yeah, I laid down at 4:30, and I sat there and said, wow, we're going to the Rose Bowl.  Then when I woke up, and again when I got back home and got off the plane.  So, yeah, there's been a lot of those moments.  I think that happens.  When you're sort of a special time in your life, you know.  You're probably sitting there saying the same thing after you get married sometimes.  Wow, married.  But there are special times in all of our lives that you can reflect on and this will be one of them throughout my life.

Q.  Would you look at your time for a head coach, and I'm sure you have a blueprint and idea of things you like to do and things you don't want to do from talks you've had.  Is there, I'm sure you don't necessarily know it's going to work until (indiscernible), when did you know it was going to work for you, and can you talk about that validation?
COACH DANTONIO:  Yeah, I've always coached because of the people involved.  I've maintained that competitive person like all the coaches.  So you want to win.  You want to treat your program through the process, you've got to during the course of time, you've got to move your program forward.
But the reality is we're graduating our players.¬† Our academic situation is extremely solid.¬† A 2.7 GPA as a total team, which is as high as it's ever been here.¬† I think for the most part our players are staying out of problems, and we have great chemistry on our football team.¬† We have great relationships with our former players.¬† It's so nice to hear from them and see them.¬† And that's how‑‑ that's really how I determine what is success and what is not.¬† How people feel when they leave here.¬† Obviously, everybody's not going to feel the same, but that's how I've determined success. ¬†Because winning is losing is so difficult to maintain, and it will drive you crazy.¬† If it's all about winning, it's going to, I think, take you over the edge at some point.¬† So I've tried to really formulate our success on the basis of those things.
Winning becomes as a product of that.  I've said over and over and over.  People see the product.  They don't understand and don't see the process.  They don't understand when you write a story how much that takes.  And I think that's really true of most things in life.  You don't see the process, and there is a process to this.  They see the product.  Now the product is important.  It's extremely important.  Right now we have a Rose Bowl product, a Big Ten Champion product which is tremendous.  But the process to me is the enjoyment of coaching and that's how I measure it.  That's really how I've measured it.
So hopefully at the end of all of this, when I'm not the head coach here anymore, at some point in time, a long time, that people will not judge you by your wins and losses too much.  They'll judge you on the quality of how you did your job and your work.  That's my hope.

Q.¬† I think I saw that the USA Today coaches poll you voted Michigan State number two.¬† Of the one‑loss teams, could you talk about that?¬† If Auburn does beat Florida State and Michigan State would beat Stanford, do you think you could make a case for Michigan?¬† You've used the why not us quite a bit.¬† I guess I'd like to hear your logic on giving yourself the number two vote and some of the motivation you're going to sell your team on to beat Stanford as far as what you're playing for?
COACH DANTONIO:  We're going to play every game extremely hard.  So when you finish the season, you finish your last game, that's how you're going to go out in your career as a senior.  That's how you're going to finish your season.  You're going to start in February, and you've got to live with that game for a couple months.  And ultimately you're sort of defined by that in some ways.  As good of season we had in 2010, we didn't play well versus Alabama.
So nobody ever put that game up there.¬† Even though we were an 11‑1 football team, nobody ever put that season up there.¬† I guess it was a great 11‑win season, but there was always an asterisk there. ¬†Oh, yeah, they didn't do this.¬† So that's how we define ourselves.
In regards to how I rank things, everybody has an opportunity to make their own calls on things.  I just know that there's one undefeated team in this country that's I believe one BCS team undefeated.  There's, I think, three that have 12 wins and one loss.  You take risks by putting yourself out there.  Ohio State has a good football team.  There is no question about that.
So, you know, I don't know.  I just look at it and say we lost to Notre Dame at Notre Dame.  Connor Cook's first start, we lost by four points.  There were some things that we could have tweaked to win that football game.  We didn't win it.  So congratulations to Notre Dame, but I just think that we're very, very close to being undefeated.  I just think they wanted it.  I also think that because we weren't in the top 25 early on, we didn't get the BCS point that's would allow us to come up the ladder.  Had we been in there and played better probably in September or however you want to put it, maintained a higher ranking early on, that we would have been there.  But, you know, that's just me sitting here on a couch speculating.  So it really doesn't count for much.  It's just one person's opinion and an opinion of millions.

Q.  I was wondering, you mentioned spending time with the players and their families.  Have you heard from other people in coaching, maybe Coach Tressel or some other mentors maybe since the game last night?
COACH DANTONIO:¬† Yeah, I wanted to say publicly, I can't text everybody back.¬† I just can't do it.¬† I've heard from so many people, players that played for us at Youngstown State, players that played for us at Ohio State, Kansas, Michigan State, Cincinnati, just an overflow from the coaches that I've known and just people all over the spectrum that I've known throughout my life.¬† So very difficult to get back to everybody.¬† But I appreciate everything and all the well‑wishes before the game and after the game.¬† My phone started blowing up, but that's a good thing.¬† That's a positive thing.

Q.  (No microphone)?
COACH DANTONIO:  There is a little number on there.  But I think I have 200 unread ones.  I've read a lot of them.  But it's a special time, and it involves a lot of people.  This is not just a special time for us here, but for the people that have played here in the last seven years and they're part of this.  They're part of that process I talked about.  The people that played here before that back in '95 to 2000.  Some of the ones that I've gotten to know over the course of time.  But just a lot of people involved in this.

Q.¬† Coach, getting back to that process that you mentioned, how important is it that the players controlled this process.¬† They didn't need help, they didn't back in.¬† Does it make it more special when it's well‑earned?
COACH DANTONIO:  I think it does make it more special.  When we came into the legends conference, we didn't have to depend on somebody else winning a game further to fall into it.  We took care of business.  It was extremely difficult to do as you see in just the way the BCS rolls.  It's extremely difficult to continue to win and win and win.  It happens in your conference as well.  And the same thing could have happened in this bowl game.  I think the Rose Bowl would have wanted us anyway, and Ohio State would have gone on to the National Championship game, we'd probably still be in the same position but it feels much better going in the front door than the back.  That's just wait we've always tried to approach things here, and I think our players understand that and respect that too.
We did it our way.  The way we wanted to do it, and we did it ourselves.  That is the thing that's exciting about this is we did it ourselves.  We had a dream, and that dream came to fruition.

Q.  There is a report out that UCONN has requested permission to talk to Pat Narduzzi.  Do you have a response to that?  And secondly, we know Pat's going to be a pretty good commodity.  How do you in the next couple weeks keep that from being a distraction?
COACH DANTONIO:  I went through the same thing at Ohio State when I was the defensive coordinator.  So first of all, Pat is a very focused individual.  He'll be in Arkansas for the Broyles Award.  He's a finalist in that.  One of the Top 5 assistant coaches in college football.  He's gotten the notoriety, and the media coverage to be a name out there, I think, to be a tremendous head coach candidate.  He'll make a tremendous head coach.
But at the same time, I know he's extremely happy here, and I know our players love him and he loves our players.  I went through the same thing.  How do I respond to that?  I'd hate to lose Pat Narduzzi, but I'm in this and I didn't want Jerel Worthy to go to the NFL.  You know, that is the same type of thing.  I didn't want Le'Veon to leave or Gholston to leave.
But when the opportunity comes and the opportunity is so good that you need to take it, then that's when you take it.  But it's got to be the right opportunity, and Pat understands that and weighs those things out.
I think he'll be a candidate on any position, any job, any head coaching job that comes available, I think he would be an extremely valuable candidate and very exciting candidate to talk to.  I think he'll be an outstanding head football coach.

Q.  Kind of getting back to the BCS picture and Michigan State.  The steps forward that you've taken with the program, putting it on the map, I guess the criticism or flaws, I guess there are still some people that aren't sold on the Big Ten.  I know you've tried to schedule aggressively.  Alabama backed out of the series with you guys.  How much do you embrace the opportunity to play another team from another conference and show what the Big Ten's all about?
COACH DANTONIO:¬† Well, I think our focus, we've always tried to say that we've definitely had some seasons leading up to what we have right now.¬† The Big Ten season is the most important part of our season.¬† Where we have the opportunity to do some things that we're doing right now.¬† The prior games before the big season should get you ready to play in that conference.¬† So we play Oregon next year.¬† I'm sure that will be an exciting match‑up.¬† It takes on a whole new twist now.¬† But with that being said, I don't really give that much thought.¬† We'll try to play every single game.
As you guys well know, you can watch our games and see that people are right there with us.  Western Michigan is right there with us now first game of the season, aren't they?  So just compete against who you have to compete against.  There are no givens out there.  There are no givens.  This is an unbelievable game that we play.  You know, just as not indication of what I just talked about, you can go from good or average to great, or the other way very, very quickly.  So we can't take anything for granted.
But, as far as our scheduling, we've always tried to schedule soundly.  I think we play Notre Dame every year.  We've taken them off the schedule the next two years.  We play Oregon home and away.  So I'm not sure if I'm answering the question, but that's the best I can.

Q.  You just mentioned answering the question.  Can you answer Chris's?  Has UCONN asked for permission to talk to Pat?
COACH DANTONIO:  They don't ask me for permission.

Q.  Have they contacted Michigan State?
COACH DANTONIO:  Yeah, they've contacted us.

Q.  You talked about people who don't get seen in this process.  Your wife, the coaches wives sacrifice a lot for you guys to get a lot of the notoriety.  Can you talk about what goes through a family when you experience success like this?
COACH DANTONIO:  That's a good question because I guess it's the same kind of joy that your players feel.  They work a lot too.  They go through a lot of things too, some positives, some negatives.  They're the ones in the stands having to listen to people criticize their fathers at times and it's difficult.  One of the most important things to me last night was getting our families into that locker room at the end of the game, having our families and their children coming into the locker room and being part of that celebration.  So that was very important to all of us.
But we have special people on this football team; we have an extremely special staff and their families.  You know, it's just amazing to me.  The children have grown up.  You know, Quinn Staten tells me, I can't remember what he told me.  Oh, I know what I told me.  Coming off the field, he says to me this morning, Quinn says to me, hey, Coach D, we're fourth in the ESPN poll.  I didn't know that.  So it's just a lot of these guys, a lot of these young people I've known since they were infants, some born.  So it's a special time for our families.  We have a very special staff.
I think the chemistry we have within our staff really permeates throughout our entire football team.  You know, that's where it starts.  It starts at the top and sort of permeates down through our whole program.  How we handle ourselves and our staff.  We have a great staff.
I think Jim Bollman coming has been a great addition.  Ron Burton has been a great addition.  And obviously, our staff has been intact for a while.  Mike Tressel, Harlon Barnett, Pat Narduzzi, Dave Warner did an outstanding job this year as coordinator in his first year.  Terrence Samuel, Mark Staten, they've done a tremendous job.  Mark Staten, I don't want to miss anybody.  I'm just sort of rambling up here.  But they've done an outstanding job, and there are so many people in support of our program from an administrative angle.  The trainers and Bob Knickerbocker, you know, going back to the Rose Bowl, so important.

Q.  For clarity, really quick, the time you were at the Rose Bowl with Ohio State, that's the only time you set foot in that stadium was that year, right?
COACH DANTONIO:  I went there in May, this past May I went there.

Q.  For?
COACH DANTONIO:  For a while.  Just for a while.  No occasion.  I was out there and I forget what I was out there for, alumni event.  And we were staying down there about two hours south of there, so we took the trip to the Rose Bowl.  I wanted to be there, and I wanted to see and feel what it was going to be like to be there.  They stop you at the gate.  They're not letting you in.  They are not letting you in.  So we had to get special permission.  Got that arranged, I think.  I think maybe John arranged that.  And they took us out on the field and walked around and videoed a real quick message to our football team, and we've used that, obviously, a couple times throughout the season.  But other than that, yeah, that is the only time I've been there.

Q.  My real question was being on the field last night with all the happiness, you got punched in the gut by Alabama, and I think you used the term that night that this is part of the process or something like that.  I just wondered the irony.  Back then they said Michigan State is good, but they can't play with the big boys.  Now you're top 4 and you beat a big boy last night.  Is that a sign of where the program has come?
COACH DANTONIO:  I think it's a sign of where our expectations are and where our program is.  There is no question about that.  I think in 2011 when we had a great year, a great year, but lost the championship game, and that was as disappointing a loss, I think, as any player had ever had, and also as disappointing a loss as any coach could have.  Immediately after the game we started working on the next.  The next was our bowl game.
We went to the Outback Bowl.  We sort of felt a little bit like well, didn't make it to a BCS Bowl.  Some things you can control, some things you can't.  So we dealt with the things we could control and went to Tampa.  Great game against Georgia, and beat Georgia.  Ended up, I think, number 10 in the nation that year.  So I think we started making progress then.  We started to believe that we could play with anybody.
I really think we can.  I think we can play with anybody we can play against.  There are very few teams that have walked over us in seven years let alone the last couple.

Q.¬† Quickly on this match‑up, it's interesting that you and Stanford sort of play the same style.¬† Maybe a little bit of old‑school kind of football.¬† Can you talk about that physicality in this game?
COACH DANTONIO:¬† Watched Stanford a little bit on TV.¬† I've never really thought that we were going to study them.¬† But we've watched them a little bit and studied them as a program in terms of how they do things offensively a little bit.¬† Little bit defensively as well.¬† But extremely well‑coached football team.¬† They're going to be a balanced football team.¬† They're going to have a pro‑style offense, a great thrower, great catcher, great runner, a big, tough offensive line, and they've won.¬† They've really turned things since probably in the last six, seven years their program has turned as well, an outstanding program.
As you saw last year, they were in the bowl game, so they've got a history there right now.  I don't know too much about them other than that.

Q.  You mentioned the message.  You text the message or sent the message to your team when you were on the Rose Bowl turf?  How can you tell what the message was and how you got that to them?
COACH DANTONIO:  Sure, you can get on a Twitter feed, okay.  And I had it tweeted out tonight.  It was on a slide show.  Of we sent a slide show out.  We had a slide show on Friday night.  So I tweeted that out.  It's on the back of the slide show, so you can see it for real.

Q.  (No microphone)?
COACH DANTONIO:  Yeah, he seemed okay this morning as he was limping in there, but he was not on crutches or anything like that.  So I would anticipate he'll be okay.
Thank you guys so much for all your support and all the things that you guys have done.  It's an exciting time, and you guys have really chronicled this throughout this entire year, and you've sort of told the story.  So I appreciate it, and go green.

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