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Michigan State’s 2010 Football Program is in Critical Need of a Course Correction Immediately
When Mark Dantonio took over as the head coach of the Michigan State University football program 3 years ago, no one was more excited and applauded than this former player and Michigan State graduate. It’s easy to understand why.
In my last two seasons watching the Spartans as a student-athlete, the Michigan State players and their coach Duffy Dougherty won both the Big Ten and National Championships in 1965 and 1966. After graduating in 1966, George Perls would be 21 years old. When the Spartans went 9-2-1 and won the Big Ten title and Rose Bowl in 1987, MSU was again brought to some prominence.
The arrival of Mark Dantonio, after losses to our arch-rival Michigan as well as Ohio State, showed hope for a struggling program. Dantonio was the defensive coordinator on Ohio State’s 2002 national championship team and built a reputation as a winner.
In his first season, Dantonio went 7-5 and led Michigan State to a bowl game for the first time in 4 years—and all 5 of his losses came by 7 points or less. He continued his march to prominence last year, improving to 9-4 and going to his second consecutive bowl game.
This year turned into a nightmare before it even started. In their second game of the season at home against Central Michigan, the Spartans really worked to find a way to lose, 29-27. The fact that Central Michigan was a mid-major school and would eventually finish the season 12-2 was irrelevant—Michigan State’s response to a similar challenge was troubling.
MSU then went on the road and lost a close game against another arch-rival Notre Dame, 33-30, followed by another road loss to Wisconsin, 38-30.
The Spartans defeated arch-rival Michigan 26-20 in overtime and defeated Illinois and Northwestern 4-3. Unhappy with any success, they promptly lost on the road at Iowa and Minnesota and dropped to 4-5. Mercifully, they then beat Western Michigan and Purdue before losing to Penn State 42-14 and barely becoming bowl eligible at 6-6.
What happened next signaled the next crisis for the Michigan State Spartans. A total of 14 Spartan players were suspended from the team pending an investigation into the dormitory brawl in November. The players in question did not make it to the Alamo Bowl to face the Texas Tech Red Raiders.
Dubbed the “Destruction Bowl” by the media due to the firing of belligerent coach Mike Leach before the game, the Red Raiders won 41–31 and Michigan State lost the season to 6–7.
It’s no exaggeration to say that Michigan State’s 3rd season under Dantonio was disappointing. 9-4 in 2008 and 6-7 in 2009 is a huge difference. It’s not just about the wins and losses—that’s just as bad—it’s also about the apparent lack of team chemistry, the apparent indifference of some players. , and the apparent non-performance of some “hot shot” recruits.
The problem was, says the great college football coach Lou Holtz, “When all is said and done, more is said than done.”
For anyone wondering what happened to the Michigan State Spartans this year, the telltale signs are clear — 14 players were suspended for participating in a dormitory brawl. When did Michigan State get a reputation as a school that recruited players interested in “thugging” and “mugging” to settle perceived scores?
Today this story is familiar to everyone. Connecticut’s players won the Papajohns.com Bowl without cornerback Jasper Howard, who was stabbed in October in a fight outside a school-sponsored dance.
Dozens of college football players have been suspended or kicked from their teams this year for violent or criminal behavior. Oregon’s LaGarrette Blount Sucker punched a Boise State player at mid-field after the Broncos beat the Ducks 19-8 in the opening game for both teams this year. Other players from other teams have been accused of anything from robbery to rape.
You have to ask yourself, “What about these talented, privileged players?” Some of them leave after their first season because they are too lazy, too undisciplined, or too stupid to get passing grades in their classes. Some run around like football is a gift from God, “talking” and acting like illiterates—in some cases they can’t write complete sentences and have trouble communicating with the people they come from. Many times they bring nothing to the occupied area.
Life is not that complicated for anyone to notice. By the time athletes arrive on a college campus, they must know right from wrong, have some basic manners and respect for everyone they come in contact with, and have enough patience to avoid robbing their roommate, raping or raping a girl. Engaging in gang violence.
Yoga taught me “impulse control”, willpower and the ability to delay acting on it.
Violent and criminal behavior should not be tolerated under any circumstances. We all face challenges in life. Each of us faces failure, rejection and ridicule. Life is not a resting place; It is a testing ground. We all face challenges every day in our lives. We either learn how to deal with these challenges or we succumb to them.
What is it about today’s youth that makes them go home, grab a gun and come back and solve their problems because someone’s feelings are hurt or they face rejection or ridicule. Learning to face your problems is part of growing up. People who indiscriminately kill other people do not value their own lives and consequently do not value the lives of those they kill.
Values of respect, tolerance, acceptance, compromise and love for others should be taught. If there is no one around, then you should follow and learn these values yourself.
Just because you are too lazy or too stupid to learn these values yourself is not acceptable if you plan to live on this planet with other people. If you can’t learn how to behave in a civilized society, we’ll lock you up and make you obsolete, that is, if you haven’t been killed by someone else first.
Michigan State’s 14 suspended players—if found guilty—are immaturity, lack of good judgment, lack of character and lack of integrity. No one does anything as stupid as they apparently do without being more self-centered than other-centered.
There should be no doubt about the value of having character and integrity. I don’t believe you can build a championship team without a substantial dose of both.
And there is no doubt about how character develops. Just as we can learn from our mistakes, we can also gain character from our disappointments. Also understand that adversity does not build character, it only reveals it. In the case of suspended athletes, perceived adversity revealed their character deficits.
Integration is what you do in the dark when no one is watching, and this is especially so if you can enjoy the personal benefit of doing it. Integrity means making decisions with right thinking and right intentions. You cannot have integrity and be self-centered, self-absorbed, greedy, dishonest, jealous, stupid, stupid and bovine like some stupid cows following other stupid cows in the field.
All of which is to say that Mark Dantonio needs to do some serious housecleaning. Dantonio needs to determine who is truly willing to work in order to succeed. Someone who doesn’t just want to play football but loves the game and needs to play football. Who is the winner who is ready to face challenges and win. And who appreciates the opportunity to wear a Michigan State Spartan uniform.
You can’t win with losers, and the MSU football team has some losers who shouldn’t be on the team. If the remaining players can’t help Michigan State take the next step, Dantonio needs to find some qualified players who can and convince them of the value of a true Spartan.
Copyright © 2010 Ed Bagley
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