Colorado football fans can blame Mark Dantonio for their problems

Mark Dantonio, Michigan State Spartans. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
Mark Dantonio, Michigan State Spartans. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images) /

Mark Dantonio’s retirement put the Michigan State Spartans in an awkward spot, inadvertently setting off a chain reaction to screw the Colorado Buffaloes.

Mark Dantonio really wanted that $4.3 million retention bonus from Michigan State.

We all saw him mail it in last college football season on the sidelines. The Michigan State Spartans went from a College Football Playoff team in 2015 to a program that missed out on a bowl game in 2016 and nearly did the same thing in 2019. Michigan State’s offense was inert last year. It was painfully obvious the greatest head coach in school history needed to go.

But that retention bonus loomed large. Dantonio waited until that seven-figure paycheck to clear on Jan. 16 before he abruptly retired less than a month later. He decided to officially be done with coaching the day before 2020 National Signing Day, even though we all saw him mentally check out last October. It was a selfish move, but that’s how it’s been for him in recent years.

It’s not a good time for Michigan State sports. The Larry Nassar scandal is abhorrent. Curtis Blackwell‘s lawsuit is getting worse by the day. Now, the greatest football coach in school history made a financial decision to put Michigan State football in a position it never envisioned it would be in. How was the athletic department going to solve its latest public relations fiasco?

Michigan State went through a head coaching search almost as bad as the one the Tennessee Volunteers went through two offseasons ago. All five of its top choices to replace Dantonio said, ‘thanks but no thanks’. Apparently, the only way to solve this was to double its fourth choice Mel Tucker‘s salary he was receiving as the head coach of the Colorado Buffaloes.

The former Nick Saban assistant didn’t initially want to leave Boulder, but money talks. You would have done the same thing if you were in his shoes. He’ll be negatively recruited against going forward for bailing on Colorado after only one year. Michigan State might be on the precipice of another scandal, but at least Tucker will make bank at the place where he got his start as a football coach.

Dantonio taking care of himself didn’t just hurt Michigan State, it potentially wrecked Colorado.

This set off a chain reaction compromising Tucker’s character, crushing Colorado’s competitiveness and vilifying Dantonio. People will now root against Tucker instead of for him. Dantonio becomes the latest edition of evil in Big Ten coaching. Colorado plummets to worst program in the worst Power 5 conference.

With it being this painfully late in the coaching carousel, Colorado was not able to command a top-tier coordinator to be its next head coach. Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator and Colorado alum, Eric Bieniemy and Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian were content to stay in their current roles. There are no Mel Tuckers to be had at this point of the offseason cycle.

New York Giants assistant and former Wisconsin and Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema and Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun reportedly interviewed for the job. Even interim head coach Darrin Chiaverini was considered for the gig. Now the next head coach of Colorado football will reportedly be Miami Dolphins wide receivers coach Karl Dorrell, who has a 35-27 record as a head coach during his 2003-2007 stint at UCLA that included a fluky 10-2 2005 season.

Going with Dorrell fires up no one. Colorado football would have been better served to let Chiaverini have his shot at being its head coach instead. It’s a move that reeks of Colorado not going to bowl games for the next two holiday seasons and the whole staff getting fired because of it. You have to feel terrible for how quickly things have turned for the worse in Boulder.

This time last year, Colorado was doing all the right things to become a contender once again in the Pac-12 South. Tucker had worked his tail off to be a head football coach. He knew how to coach defensive excellence, he could recruit like few men in the country and most importantly, he wanted to make it work in Colorado. Too bad Dantonio needed that $4.3 million he didn’t earn.

It’s tough to accept, but we do find ourselves as collateral damage stemming from other people’s bad and downright selfish decisions from time to time. There are unintended consequences to everything. Colorado didn’t deserve to be this publicly humiliated, but this is what happens when someone like Dantonio abuses the system for the sake of self-preservation and financial gain.

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