Sports Outside the Beltway

Michigan State Hires Cincy’s Mark Dantonio

Mark Dantonio is leaving the University of Cincinnati to become the new coach at Michigan State, which fired John L. Smith while struggling to a 4-8 record this season. The Michigan State Board of Trustees, in a special meeting Monday morning, unanimously approved a recommendation to hire Dantonio. The five-year contract guarantees Dantonio about $1.1 million a year. It also has a $200,000 signing bonus and incentives that could boost his income. The school scheduled a noon news conference to introduce Dantonio.

“Leaving UC is a hard decision for our family,” Dantonio said in a statement posted on the University of Cincinnati athletics Web site. “The last three seasons have been incredible for us as our staff has been able to get Cincinnati football back on track. … Michigan State is a special place for me.”

Michigan State first interviewed Dantonio on Saturday night, followed up by a second interview with university president Lou Anna Simon on Sunday morning. “Everyone agreed, head and shoulders, this was the right person for the job,” athletic director Ron Mason said.

The 50-year-old Dantonio is a former Michigan State assistant who has been head coach at Cincinnati for the past three seasons. He has an 18-17 record, including a 7-5 mark this season with a win over previously unbeaten Rutgers. The Big East school is awaiting a bowl bid, its second under Dantonio.

This seems like an obvious choice: A proven winner with ties to the school who’s young enough to spend several years rebuilding the program.

Still, even the NFL doesn’t allow teams to poach coaches from other teams during the season. It’s quite bizarre that the NCAA allows it to happen at the college level, where coaches have made a commitment to their players on a much more personal basis. Dantonio’s kids at Cincy have played hard for him all year and will now play their bowl game knowing he’s abandoned them for a better gig.

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