Mark Dantonio plans to be back at Michigan State in 2020: 'I don't think I'm finished'

Michigan State is in the middle of a rough season, leading to plenty of speculation about the future of head coach Mark Dantonio. 

The Spartans are 4-6 on the year, mired in a five-game losing streak. MSU has underperformed in three of the four seasons since it won the Big Ten in 2015, going a combined 24-24 with a 15-19 mark in Big Ten play over that span. 

The last two seasons have been especially mediocre. The 2018 MSU defense was one of the best in the country, but the offense struggled mightily in a season that culminated with a 7-6 record. Those offensive struggles carried over into 2019, with MSU’s most recent effort being a 44-10 loss to rival Michigan on Saturday. 

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Dantonio, in his 13th season in East Lansing, now finds himself answering questions about his future. Dantonio is the school’s all-time winningest coach, so it would be a tough decision for school administration to push him out. Some have wondered, though, whether Dantonio would make the decision to step aside after the season. Tuesday, he made one thing clear: He intends to be the coach at Michigan State in 2020. 

“I can’t predict the future, but my intentions are to be the head football coach here,” Dantonio said. “I’ve always said I live in the present. There’s certain things you have control of and there’s certain things you don’t have control of. I can’t control everything, but my intentions are, yeah, absolutely. My father always taught me to complete circles. Complete the circle, so that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Will Dantonio make changes to his coaching staff?

Dantonio has faced criticism for his decision not to bring in new assistant coaches on offense following the 2018 campaign. He kept the same group in place, opting instead to just shuffle their titles. Asked about whether he would consider making changes this time around (should he return in 2020), Dantonio said those considerations wouldn’t come until after the season. 

“I don’t make decisions on that until I weigh out everything to the best that I can,” Dantonio said. “I think I’ve tried to figure out what worked and what didn’t work and how to critique it. What was in our control and how do I evaluate that? I’ve always made those decisions after the fact, and that’s what I’ll continue to do to the best of my ability.”

Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio watches against Michigan in the first half of an NCAA college football game in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio watches against Michigan in the first half of an NCAA college football game in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Michigan State is through the toughest part of its season with only a trip to Rutgers and a home game against Maryland (combined records: 5-15) remaining. If the Spartans win both games, a bowl trip enters the equation and could give the program some positive feelings heading into the offseason. 

Dantonio knows his program isn’t that far removed from some significant successes. He thinks he can lead the Spartans back to those heights. 

“When you start something you want to finish it. That’s the direction we’ve always tried to go. That means not quitting in the middle of something when you don’t think something’s finished. I don’t think I’m finished,” Dantonio said.

“Coaching is very difficult because you’re on a merry-go-round that’s going about 150 mph. The centrifugal force keeps you in the center of that. You’re constantly going to the next thing. I’ve been blessed to be on that. That’s what I do. I’m the head football coach at Michigan State until whatever. I’m only in control of some things. I’m not in control of everything. I do my best.”

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