Mark Dantonio: I embrace championship expectations

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Monday August 06, 2012

Posted by: Chris Vannini on August 6, 2012

Mark Dantonio has built up Michigan State over his five seasons as head coach, taking a step forward with each year. Coming off a second straight 11-win season and his first bowl win with the Spartans, Dantonio wants his players thinking about Rose Bowls and national championships.

"Yes, I embrace it. I think we have very high goals here, very high standards that we're trying to keep," he said. "You always want to get better. That's the message. I don't care where you're at. Look at the Super Bowl champions. They want to get better. They talk about not having a 9-7 season or whatever they're doing. So you're always trying to reach further. ... I think we're proud of what we've accomplished. But I think we want to stay humbled in that fact and understand that this game is very fleeting, I guess, and you can be up here one minute and down here the next."

Dantonio mentioned last season's Big Ten Championship Game loss to Wisconsin as still being a painful memory, but he believes it has strengthened his program.

MSU safety Isaiah Lewis received a penalty for running into Wisconsin's punter late in the game, sealing the loss. Dantonio again stuck up for his player and talked about what he told Lewis after the penalty.

"First of all, again, just to make sure everybody understands: I turned Isaiah loose on that. I told him to go get it. That's my responsibility. If you're not going to play to win, if you're not going to take the risk, you know, then you're playing the wrong game. The things were set up for him to have a clean sweep at the block. So things happened.

"But I believe you coach because it's competitive, because it's exciting, all those different things, it's challenging. But I honestly think you coach because of your love for people and you want to impact young people. You want to see people grow. You want to have people graduate. ...That's what you have to draw from. Because if you just want to win, there's only 14 opportunities, and you're going to be so driven, and you're going to be very depressed when you don't win. And I'm not going to be built that way, nor do I ever want to be defined here in terms of how many games we won."

Michigan State opens the season against Boise State on Friday, Aug. 31.

You can listen to Dantonio's media day press conference here.








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Chris Vannini is a lead writer for and has covered Michigan State sports for The State News, The Oakland Press and He writes a weekly column for the Detroit Free Press on behalf of SB Nation. Vannini lives in Big Ten country, so his foot speed is far from SEC caliber, but his pulse on coaches is hard to match. Be sure to follow @CoachingBuzz on twitter and send your feedback to

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News,, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to

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