Mark Dantonio steps down as head coach at Michigan State after 13 seasons

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The time has come for Mark Dantonio to part ways with Michigan State.  Not before, though, he collected a seven-figure check from the university.

In a statement Tuesday afternoon, Mark Dantonio announced that he is stepping down as the head coach at Michigan State.  The move comes the day before National Signing Day, a month after Dantonio finished up his 13th season as the Spartans’ head coach.

“Every February since 2007, I have reset this program in preparation for the next year’s challenge,” Dantonio wrote. “After much reflection and discussion with my family, I feel that it is now time for change as we enter a new decade of Michigan State football.”

According to Dantonio’s statement, he’ll remain with the university and the athletic department “in a role involving special projects, especially transitioning our players, both current and incoming, to their next challenge.”

In ending his statement, Mark Dantonio wrote, “It has truly been an honor and a privilege to serve as head football coach at Michigan State University. I will forever be a Spartan.”

Back in October, we noted that Mark Dantonio would be due a very hefty bonus if were still the head football coach at Michigan State on Jan. 15.  As that date has come and gone with Dantonio still the head coach at the time, he is due a retention bonus in the amount of a whopping $4.3 million.

His contract calls for the bonus to be paid on or before March 31 of this year.  Despite the resignation, Dantonio is still due the bonus.

Including the retention bonus, Dantonio would’ve pulled in $8.6 million in guaranteed compensation in 2020.  That would’ve made Dantonio the third-highest-paid head coach in college football.  The only two ahead of him?  Clemson’s Dabo Swinney ($9.32 million) and Alabama’s Nick Saban ($8.87 million).

In February of 2016, Michigan State announced that it had reached an agreement on a revamped contract for Mark Dantonio that pushed his annual guaranteed compensation to north of $4 million. Since that extension, which came off of three straight 10-win seasons and four in five years, the Spartans have gone 27-24, including a second-straight 7-6 record this past season. The Spartans are 17-19 in Big Ten play since then as well.  Combine that recent futility with an offense that has languished near the bottom of the Big Ten during that stretch — and was the impetus for the coach to chafe at reporter’s dumb-ass question on at least one occasion — and you had chatter surrounding Dantonio and his long-term viability growing louder by the week.

Michigan State announced that Mike Tressel will serve as interim head coach until a permanent replacement is found.

The initial speculation has Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell and Pitt’s Pat Narduzzi as the early favorites to take over.