The term ‘influence' seemed to be a popular word this weekend at the 7th annual Ohio High School Football Coaches Association clinic. For Mark Dantonio, the word as it relates to the Ohio State University is an understatement.
As Dantonio sets fourth to begin as the head football coach at the University of Cincinnati, he will do so with strong influences from Jim Tressel and many other assistants he's had the pleasure of working with. Dantonio spoke with Bucknuts.com recently about many of those pleasures as well as how the process started.
"I had been approached by some other jobs in the past," Dantonio said. "But as this job opened up I just inquired about it. Coach Tressel called them to inquire about it for me, and things just sort of snowballed from there really."
Dantonio is a 1979 graduate of the University of South Carolina. The Zanesville, Ohio high school product, has served as an assistant at Akron, Youngstown State, Kansas, Michigan State, and then finally the past three years as the defensive coordinator at Ohio State.
Dantonio said there were really only a few places in the country he would have been interested in an opportunity. Cincinnati was one of those places, largely because of staying in Ohio, and their recent move to the Big East Conference.
"It was definitely a job I always felt like I'd be interested in because of the proximity," Dantonio said. "With them being an Ohio school and going into the BCS, the Big East, and the building of new facilities, it was a job I thought was sort of in a new beginning. They were making a renewed commitment with the things they are doing. So from that point of view, being able to stay in Ohio is very important for myself and my family."
Dantonio said the decision was actually made well in advance to take the job if it came about, but a sense of loyalty to the university and his fellow staff members dictated he stick the job out.
"We were very fortunate in that as the job came along, we didn't have to do anything with the job until after bowl practices," Dantonio said. "After bowl practices, after the final Friday bowl practice, I interviewed and accepted the job that Sunday and then Christmas came, then we left for the bowl game."
Dantonio said the decision to stay through the Fiesta Bowl was a no-brainer because of the established bond he has with everyone at Ohio State, and the close-knit atmosphere within the program.
"I felt it was extremely important I stayed in there and finished the job right because Ohio State has been a very special place for me," Dantonio said. "It's also not just because we've won, but because of the special relationships there and the special people there."
Dantonio spoke about the immense pressures and increased responsibilities that come along with the head coaching role.
"It's got a much different feel to it," Dantonio said. "It's a lot more to do, a lot more busy, you have to tackle aspects of the entire program as opposed to just the defense. It's been an adjustment, but we've put together a great staff. I'm very pleased with the quality people we have, and it will definitely take a load off my back."
Tressel shares a mutual feeling with Dantonio about the role of coaches and how they've impressed things upon one another.
"I think coaches absolutely do influence each other and this is no exception," Tressel said. "Whether it's the head coach or assistant coaches, I think they all are influential. My staff is definitely no different. I'm always being influenced by my staff. The guys I grew up coaching with have molded me into who I am. The coaches I personally worked for have shaped me and I think that's what we're all here for."
As his time at Ohio State has commenced, he said it was impossible to pick out just one single thing in which he was most impressed my.
"It's a multitude of things," Dantonio said. "It's about championships, relationships, class, respect, honesty; there are just so many things about the Ohio State University and the program that Coach Tressel has here. There are just so many things that I would hope at some point, we can even come close to accomplishing the things here that we've done at Ohio State in terms of people."
Tressel is going to miss much of the same things in Dantonio. He believes Dantonio will do very well at UC.
"I think he truly cares about his players including his position players and everyone he deals with," Tressel said. "He worked for me and he truly cares about all of them. Now as he takes on a head coaching role, he will certainly do the same with an entire team."
Dantonio's wife Becky is a graduate of Ohio State, and has two daughters, Kristen and Lauren. All three seasons at Ohio State, Dantonio's defense was in the top two in the Big Ten in scoring, and usually amongst the leaders nationally in total defense.
"It was very hard to leave and very emotional," Dantonio said. "This is a special place. There is probably only five or six places anywhere close to this in all of America. The Ohio State University is a special place, and the state of Ohio is special. This is a great opportunity for me, but it wasn't an easy opportunity. I'll miss this place."