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What If Mark Dantonio's Timing Was Perfect After All?

Mark Dantonio
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Michigan State wanted Luke Fickell badly. But the Spartans' top choice is choosing to stay at Cincinnati instead of overseeing the rebuild in East Lansing. It's a wise choice as the Bearcats will flirt with the top 10 next season and MSU is starting from ashes.

That makes four coaches who have rebuffed advances to take over for Mark Dantonio. There may be a fifth. There may not be, however, as the search committee slowly realizes what happened here a la the end of The Usual Suspects. You see, Dantonio is a lot of things, but mysterious is not one of them. The greatest and most confounding coach in school history was more cunning than most gave him credit for and loyal to a fault.

Loyalty to assistants is what doomed the program and sent it back to mediocrity. And it's pretty clear that it was a major motivating factor when it came to Dantonio's decision to step away in early February.

Much has been made about his decision to wait until he was eligible for a $4.3 million bonus. It was immediately identified as a selfish move. In reality, though, hanging around for a few extra months could prove to be a brilliant strategic decision for someone invested in putting his remaining assistant coaches in the best possible situation.

Dantonio can say publicly that others will crawl to mid-Michigan to take over the reins. Facts have proven otherwise. He had to know deep-down, more than anyone else, the extent of the challenges facing the program now. Finding a splashy name that wants to start from scratch on an extreme deadline is hard. The calendar will soon force favor in the direction of status quo, meaning all of Dantonio's guys get another year of employment.

That's a pretty good plan-- if it were the plan. It doesn't take much of a tinfoil hat to connect the dots here. Just a grasp on reality and how unattractive the Michigan State football job has become in the big picture.

It's growing increasingly clear that major changes aren't going to happen overnight. The search for a new architect hasn't been going great.

In the end, the Dantonio camp may come out of this a winner while everyone else is unsatisfied.