Mark Dantonio's tenure as Michigan State's head coach has come to an end.
After 13 years leading Michigan State's football program, Dantonio announced Tuesday that he has decided to step down as the Spartans' head coach.
To all Spartans: Thank you for everything. You have truly helped my dreams come true. pic.twitter.com/uKkubvp1cW— Mark Dantonio (@DantonioMark) February 4, 2020
“Every February since 2007, I have reset this program in preparation for the next year's challenges,” Dantonio wrote in a letter announcing his decision. “After much reflection and discussion with my family, I feel that it is now time for change as we enter into a new decade of Michigan State Football.”
Dantonio said he plans to “stay on within the university and the athletic department in a role involving special projects, especially transitioning our players, both current and incoming, to their next challenges.”
“Mark Dantonio has provided outstanding leadership for the Spartan football program for the last 13 years. As the all-time winningest coach in school history, he’s raised the bar for Michigan State football,” Michigan State athletic director Bill Beekman said in a statement. “As we begin the search for Mark’s successor, we will look for the right fit who will continue the success at both the conference and national level.”
Mike Tressel, the nephew of former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel and Michigan State's defensive coordinator for the entirety of Dantonio's tenure, has been named interim head coach.
According to a report by David Jesse of the Detroit Free Press, Cincinnati head coach and former Ohio State defensive coordinator/interim head coach Luke Fickell “is the frontrunner” to replace Dantonio on a permanent basis, though “no deal is currently in place.”
Dantonio's decision to step down as head coach came just hours after lawyers for former Michigan State staffer Curtis Blackwell, who is currently suing Dantonio and the university for wrongful termination, alleged that Dantonio committed multiple NCAA recruiting violations, as reported by Tony Paul of the Detroit News.
In a press conference on Tuesday night, however, Dantonio said Blackwell's lawsuit had “zero” influence on his decision to retire.
“No relevance whatsoever,” Dantonio said.
His decision also comes less than a month after Dantonio was set to receive a $4.3 million retention bonus from the university.
In Dantonio's 13 seasons as Michigan State's head coach, the Spartans went 114-57, won three Big Ten championships and made the College Football Playoff in 2015 after handing Ohio State its only loss of that season. Michigan State was the only Big Ten team to beat Ohio State three times in the past decade.
The Spartans went just 7-6 in each of the past two seasons, however, with a widening gap between them and the top three teams in the Big Ten East: Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan. Their recruiting class for 2020 is ranked just 42nd in 247Sports' composite class rankings.
Before Dantonio became Michigan State's head coach in 2007, he was the head coach at Cincinnati from 2004-06 and was previously Ohio State's defensive coordinator from 2001-03.