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The highs and lows of Mark Dantonio's career

Posted at 7:23 PM, Feb 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-06 05:17:29-05

LANSING, Mich. — One of, if not the most successful eras in Michigan State football came to an end Tuesday with Mark Dantonio's surprise retirement.

While he exceeded even the most-optimistic fans' expectations, there were some bumps along the way.

When Dantonio was hired in 2006, Michigan State was coming off the disastrous end of the John L. Smith era. Dantonio immediately set goals, beat Michigan and got back to the Rose Bowl.

He accomplished the first one in his second season when the Spartans got their first win in Michigan Stadium in 18 years. MSU finished with its best record since 1999 and played in a New Year's Day Bowl.

The program's reputation took a hit in late 2009 when Dantonio suspended eight players and kicked two others off of the team following an assault at a fraternity gathering.

The short-handed Spartans lost to Texas Tech in the Alamo Bowl.

One of Dantonio's most memorable wins came in September of 2010 when he called "little giants," a fake field goal in overtime to stun Notre Dame 34-31.

However, just hours later, the coach of Notre Dame checked himself into a hospital for chest pains. He had a heart attack and wasn't on the sidelines for the next two games. Despite that, the team won a share of their first Big Ten title in 20 years.

Another memorable win came in 2011 when a Hail Mary to beat Wisconsin came on the last play, bringing a crushing defeat to the same team in the Big Ten championship game.

A late penalty cost the Spartans a trip to the Rose Bowl, but they did get their first bowl win under Dantonio.

The program broke through in 2013, making it to their first Rose Bowl in 25 years where they beat Stanford to finish ranked third in the country. That was just the start of an incredible run.

The Spartans went 11-and-2 the next year and beat Baylor in the Cotton Bowl.

Then in 2015, the Spartans pulled off the miracle at Michigan, returning a botched punt for a touchdown in the final play of the game to win 27-23. They went on to win the Big Ten title and a berth in the college football playoff where they were defeated by eventual national champion Alabama. That was the high-water mark under Dantonio.

MSU went 3-and-9 in the next year.

In 2017, three players were kicked off the team after they were charged with sexually assaulting a woman at a party. Joshua King, Donnie Corley and Demetric Vance eventually pleaded guilty to lesser charges.

A fourth player, Auston Robertson pleaded guilty to sexual assault in a separate case and is currently in prison. Roberston had a history of sexual misconduct in high school.

Dantonio's career ended with back-to-back 7-and-6 seasons.

His team sent him off with a victory Pinstripe Bowl last December.

A lawsuit filed by former staffer Curtis Blackwell claims Dantonio ignored the advice of at least one assistant coach who urged him not to allow Robertson on the team.

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