- Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell is the favorite to replace Mark Dantonio as Sparty’s head coach
- Could Michigan State really look for a coach outside of the Power Five?
- Check out our prediction on who the next head coach will be in East Lansing
After 13 seasons as the Michigan State head football coach, Mark Dantonio has stepped down. Interestingly, his retirement comes 20 days after receiving a $4.3 million longevity bonus, and just a couple of hours after alleged NCAA violations were filed against both the coach and the school.
Longtime Michigan State defensive coordinator Mike Tressel will serve as acting head coach during the search period. This prompts the question, who will be the next head coach in East Lansing?
Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell has been pegged as the frontrunner to take over. Fickell just brought in Cincinnati’s best recruiting class ever and has said he is committed to the Bearcats for the foreseeable future.
With a lot of interesting names in the mix, could Michigan State bring in a dark horse candidate to fill their head coach vacancy ?
Odds on Next Michigan State Head Coach
Odds taken on February 6, 2020.
Fickell’s Bearcats Building Something Special
Fickell and the Bearcats had an impressive 2019 season. Cincinnati finished first in the AAC East with an 11-3 record but lost the AAC Championship game to Memphis, 29-24.
The Bearcats bounced back with a win in the Ticketsmarter Birmingham Bowl over Boston College, 38-6. Fickell has now posted back-to-back 11-win seasons at Cincinnati in just his second and third years on the job.
When Dantonio accepted the Michigan State position back in 2007, he came over from Cincinnati. So athletic director Bill Beekman may take the same approach with this hire.
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
Fickell has done an excellent job recruiting for the Bearcats upcoming season. Cincinnati has managed to get three four-star recruits and the number-one recruiting class in the AAC.
The big name that individuals were shocked to see commit to Cincinnati was dual-threat quarterback Evan Prater. The Cincinnati native is the highest-rated recruit in Cincinnati history and is the highest-rated recruit to attend a non-Power five school.
Fickell has obviously created a great culture in Cincinnati, and with the number of great recruits he has coming in, it’s unlikely he leaves for Michigan State now. The Big Ten is more enticing than the AAC, but Fickell has started to see great results from what he’s been creating in Cincinnati for the last three years.
Narduzzi and The Others
There is a whole cast of possibilities for this head coach vacancy, but a lot of fingers have been pointed at Pittsburgh head coach Pat Narduzzi. The Panthers finished 8-5 this season, which is the third time Narduzzi has reached that mark in five seasons.
Before leaving for Pittsburgh, Narduzzi was the defensive coordinator for Mark Dantonio’s Michigan State team for eight seasons. It would make sense for Narduzzi to be considered for the job, right? Well, the 53-year-old Connecticut native squashed the rumors with one tweet:
— Pat Narduzzi (@CoachDuzzPittFB) February 5, 2020
Arkansas State’s Blake Anderson is being considered for the job, but an applicant from the Sun Belt won’t satisfy the Spartan fan base. A great option for Michigan State would be Matt Campbell from Iowa State. However, Campbell just signed with Iowa State and he probably does not want to be brought in to clean up Dantonio’s mess.
The MAC has been one of the most underrated conferences since the dawn of time. It has brought some of college football’s most unexpected and electric moments in the past.
P.J. Fleck cemented his mantra “Row the Boat” in Western Michigan. After completing a remarkable 13-1 campaign with Western Michigan in 2016, Fleck left to coach Minnesota, where he’s had great success.
Although Chris Creighton does not have a cool catchphrase like Fleck, he definitely has the ability to turn a team like Michigan State around for the better. Creighton came into a dumpster fire when he agreed to coach Eastern Michigan in 2014. Since then, Creighton has done nothing but improve the Eagles.
In his first two seasons, EMU won just three games. In his next four seasons, Eastern Michigan had two winning seasons and an combined record of 25-26.
Dantonio is moving into a special projects role, which would help with Creighton’s transition. The Spartans need a passionate head coach who is a benchmark for change, and I believe Creighton could be that guy.
Best Bet: Chris Creighton (+1600)
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