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Five Replacements for Mark Dantonio at Michigan State

EAST LANSING, MICHIGAN - NOVEMBER 09: Head coach Mark Dantonio leaves the field after a 37-34 loss to the Illinois Fighting Illini at Spartan Stadium on November 09, 2019 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Illinois v Michigan State | Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Michigan State is a mess. The latest indignity came at home against Illinois as the Spartans squandered a 25-point lead in explicable fashion. Mark Dantonio has gone from competing in the College Football Playoff to leading a largely irrelevant team that's shrinking by the second with new guys entering the transfer portal.

Dantonio did the impossible in East Lansing. He made Michigan State football a national powerhouse. They should erect a statue of him outside the stadium and fans should be eternally grateful for his contributions. But nothing can last forever. Eventually the 63-year-old will ride into the sunset on his own volition or things will become so untenable that he's given a nudge along the way.

If the chatter isn't white-hot already, it'll become so after Saturday with Michigan desperate to humiliate their longtime antagonists. Dantonio probably isn't the person to lead a rebuild and his interest in doing so would be surprising.

So, with all that in mind, and a fair bit of personal sadness, here are five candidates for the MSU job when it becomes available.

CINCINNATI, OH - NOVEMBER 09: Head coach Luke Fickell of the Cincinnati Bearcats is seen during the game against the Connecticut Huskies at Nippert Stadium on November 9, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Luke Fickell, Cincinnati

Fickell is, in many ways, Dantonio 2.0. An Ohio State guy who found success at Cincinnati. Maintaining the strong recruiting ground in the state is paramount to the Spartans' success and Fickell could step right in without too much of a drop-off. Then there's the strong commitment to and track record of fielding top defenses, another Dantonio staple. At 46, Fickell conceivably has two decades ahead of him and would be both a safe and smart pick.

OXFORD, OH - NOVEMBER 15:  Head coach Chris Creighton of the Eastern Michigan Eagles looks on against the Miami Ohio Redhawks at Yager Stadium on November 15, 2017 in Oxford, Ohio.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Chris Creighton, Eastern Michigan

Since going 3-21 in his first two seasons in Ypsilanti, Creighton has piloted the Eagles to a 23-24 record, two bowl appearances -- and possibly one more on the horizon. He's beaten Illinois and Purdue, and competed on the road against Army and Kentucky. In short, a tremendous job at a traditional factory of sadness. Creighton would bring the energy of someone on the come-up. He'd be familiar with the area as well.

MADISON, WI - NOVEMBER 18: Defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard of the Wisconsin Badgers looks on during a game against the Michigan Wolverines at Camp Randall Stadium on November 18, 2017 in Madison, Wisconsin. Wisconsin won 24-10. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Jim Leonhard, Wisconsin DC

A brilliant and feisty defensive coordinator, it could be a long time before Leonhard gets his chance at the Badgers' top job as Paul Chryst excels. At only 37, he's solidified himself as a top mind with the rugged toughness that plays so well in mid-Michigan.

Chip Long, Notre Dame OC

MSU desperately needs new offensive ideas. Long, 36, is cutting his teeth at one of the most high-profile and pressurized situations under Brian Kelly. He may need more seasoning but he does the ability to be varied without becoming gimmicky, a good sell for a program known for developing NFL-ready talent.

WEST POINT, NY - OCTOBER 26: Jeff Monken, Head Coach of the Army Black Knights on the sidelines during the fourth quarter of a game against the San Jose State Spartans at Michie Stadium on October 26, 2019 in West Point, New York. (Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images)
Dustin Satloff/Getty Images

Jeff Monken, Army

Speaking of needing a new offensive blueprint, what if MSU decided to take a chance on Monken, who has built a monster at West Point? The 52-year-old also won using the system at Georgia Southern. The Spartans have long prided themselves on running the football and controlling the clock. Well, there's no better way to do it than a soul-crushing triple-option. This is a high-risk, high-reward play.

Other considerations: Pat Narduzzi (Pitt), Matt Campbell (Iowa State), Mark Stoops (Kentucky), Jason Candle (Toledo), Danny Gonzalez (Arizona State defensive coordinator)