Seth Gruen is columnist for CBSChicago.com, focusing on college sports. You can follow him on Twitter @SethGruen.
By Seth Gruen–
(CBS) There’s a somewhat strange moniker in college football when it comes to coaches in the sport. We refer to guys like Alabama’s Nick Saban, Ohio State’s Urban Meyer and Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh as “celebrity coaches.”
It’s bizarre, because almost all big-time athletes and coaches are referred to with some level of celebrity status, even though it may be on a small-town, local level. But in the world of college football, with so many lesser-known programs, the men at the helm of certain iconic football teams are deemed to be national brands.
If you’re not of this celebrity status, there are those who often write a coach off as second-tier. In the wake of Michigan State’s win at Ohio State, I can’t help but finally belt out that the Spartans’ Mark Dantonio is every bit as good as any coach in the country. He deserves as much consideration in that conversation as Saban and Meyer.
If it weren’t for Dantonio’s vanilla personality, maybe he too would have that celebrity status. But instead, all we have to look at are his results on the field, which often aren’t enough— but should be — to get the kind of publicity he deserves.
No matter what the circumstances, Dantonio wins as many big games as any coach out there. He has beaten the Meyer-coached Buckeyes in the Big Ten championship, bested Stanford in the Rose Bowl and presided over a dramatic fourth-quarter rally to beat Baylor in this past January’s Cotton Bowl.
Saturday’s win at Ohio State, though, may have been Dantonio’s masterpiece.
Reeling from injuries all season, Dantonio was without starting quarterback Connor Cook, whom some believe will be taken in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Yet Michigan State still found a way to win.
Yes, I know Ohio State dealt with the same issue last season. Twice. But if Meyer deserves credit for it, then so does Dantonio. Saturday’s game in Columbus was as important to Michigan State as was Ohio State’s win over Wisconsin in last year’s Big Ten championship.
On Saturday, Dantonio simply outcoached Meyer in every facet of the game. And here’s one that will ruffle feathers in Columbus: It wasn’t the first time.
This isn’t some jab at Meyer, Saban or any of the other “celebrity coaches.” It’s merely to say that Dantonio belongs.
Unlike Saban or Meyer, who took over programs rich in tradition, Dantonio has built the Spartans into a national power. Every year, Michigan State is considered a national championship contender. Every year people take notice of the Spartans’ football program.
It’s finally time to take notice of its coach.