OPINION: Time for Spartans To Extend Dantonio

It's time for Michigan State to extend the contract of head coach Mark Dantonio and to make him one of the highest paid coaches in the Big Ten.

EAST LANSING - It's time for Michigan State to extend the contract of head coach Mark Dantonio and to make him one of the highest paid coaches in the Big Ten.

In addition, Dantonio deserves some kind of clause that would allow an automatic bump up to stay in that tier of the top coaches of the Big Ten.

According to the website coacheshotseat.com, Dantonio ($1.15 million) ranks 52nd among the game's highest paid coaches.

That puts him behind Illinois' Ron Zook (44th, $1.35 million), Wisconsin's Brett Bielema (43rd, $ 1.4 million), Penn State's Joe Paterno (35th, $1.5 million), Purdue's Joe Tiller (28th, $1.8 million), Michigan's Rich Rodriguez (13th, $2.5 million), Iowa's Kirk Ferentz (8th, $3.03 million)and Ohio State's Jim Tressel (6th, $3.5 million).

Even such coaching lesser lights as Skip Holtz at East Carolina ($1.16 million), Dave Wannstedt at Pitt ($1.2 million), Brian Kelly ($1.2 million) of Cincinnati, and Rick Neuheisel of UCLA($1.25) earn more. Fired head coach Phil Fulmer ($2.4) of Tennessee and Ty Willingham ($1.47 million) of Washington are pocketing more.

That just shouldn't be. That's the way to lose your head coach.

Dantonio has already won more games than any MSU coach in his first two seasons with two more to play. Only the legendary Hugh "Duffy" Daugherty, who won the National Championship in his second season at the helm, has been more successful than Dantonio in his second year.

More importantly, Michigan State is relevant again. After making a quick splash under John L. Smith and more sustained success under Nick Saban and George Perles, the Spartans are again getting votes in the AP and USA Today top-25 polls.

Dantonio appears to be headed to a New Year's Day bowl and has an outside shot at getting his team to a Rose Bowl, this on the heels of last's year's appearance in the Champs Sports Bowl.

He has assembled one of the best recruiting classes in the Big Ten, a class that will only further accelerate the team's move to the heights of the Big Ten conference.

He has momentum both on and off the field in taking away fans from the University of Michigan, which has been the dominant program in the state and bringing them over to the Green-and-White.

Together, he and MSU head basketball coach Tom Izzo make an amazingly successful, credible and high profile duo of spokesmen who represent the University with class, dignity and success.

This will be the litmus test for new Athletic Director Mark Hollis.

Dantonio was an outstanding hire, one that Hollis had plenty to do with. He found a tireless worker, who represents the University successfully both on and off the field.

Talks should be done quickly and behind closed doors and the coach should find himself in the $2.5 million range when its all said and done.

Don't think for one minute other programs haven't seen what Dantonio has been able to accomplish in just two years at a school that had trouble putting together a .500 season, much less getting to a bowl game.

If Dantonio can do that at Michigan State, could he do it at our University, they'll ask? With the first opening at Tennnessee, coaches will inevitably start jumping to other schools and that will bring headhunters, search firms and go-betweens looking for overachieving coaches who are ready for a big payday.

Why leave anything to chance?

Dantonio's a winner and he has a chance to put MSU, not only in the Big Ten championship conversation but in the National picture for the next several years. He's already made Michigan State the football program to beat in the State of Michigan.

It's time to get a new deal done.

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