|I refuse to post a picture of Mark Dantonio.|
By now many of you have heard about Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio’s strange outburst during the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association clinic a couple days ago. Michigan wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Jeff Hecklinski was in the middle of speaking about Michigan’s recruiting method when Dantonio interrupted with “Okay, here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to get other people up here. We’re going to talk about more than the University of Michigan.” Later, he said, “How many guys got a guy who’s going to play in the Big Ten? One, two – so the two guys can go back there in the corner and talk about that. All of us right here, we’re going to talk about recruiting for everybody. Let’s go.”
Numerous accounts have been shared regarding how it went down and it appears there is some confusion about what Hecklinski was there to do. Some accounts have suggested that Hecklinski was supposed to be taking part in a panel discussion and, therefore, had overstepped his allotted amount of time in talking about Michigan. Others have suggested that Dantonio had been given 15 minutes to talk and Hecklinski, who was filling in for head coach Brady Hoke due to Hoke’s attending the Bear Bryant Coach of the Year Award ceremony, was also supposed to have 15 minutes. The latter scenario seems more reasonable, since I doubt the event planners would give one in-state Big Ten program 15 minutes to talk and the other in-state Big Ten program only 5 minutes.
What does not seem to be in question is the fact that Dantonio was out of line by interrupting Hecklinski. Having attended several coaching clinics in several states, I have never seen a presenter get interrupted by another presenter. It’s the event coordinator’s job to make sure that the presenters are keeping on topic and finishing their presentations in a timely manner. It’s not uncommon to hear “Two minutes, coach!” coming from the back or the side of the room or to see the event coordinator hold up five fingers or two fingers.
I also sincerely doubt Dantonio would have interrupted another head coach. As a young-ish assistant coach (Hecklinski graduated college in 1997, meaning he’s probably about 37), the 55-year-old Dantonio probably thought he could bully Hecklinski. And he did. The news is already a fairly big deal (Google “Mark Dantonio” and the first hit is “Mark Dantonio cuts off Michigan assistant”), but imagine if he had interrupted Brady Hoke or Bret Bielema or Joe Paterno. It’s tough to imagine, because it wouldn’t have happened. Of course, Dantonio is no stranger to attempting to bully people who are younger than him. How can any Michigan fan forget him making short jokes about Mike Hart?
Multiple accounts have confirmed that the exchange between Dantonio and Hecklinski was very awkward and that you could hear a pin drop in the room for several uncomfortable seconds. Dantonio, who already seems to be falling behind Hoke in relationships with high school coaches, did not help himself and his program by putting on such a display. Michigan fans generally seem to be offended by Dantonio’s comments, and Michigan State fans are likely saying “That’s awesome!” Many high school coaches in Michigan probably lean one way or the other toward U of M or MSU, and some of those present might not have been swayed by the incident. But anyone without a strong allegiance would likely be put off by Dantonio’s behavior.
Let’s not ignore the fact that football coaches live in a testosterone-filled, male dominated world. These coaches did not get to these points in their careers by being followers and pushovers. Behind closed doors many coaches are different than their public personas suggest. What’s disconcerting about Dantonio’s behavior is that he doesn’t seem to know when he’s in public and when he’s not. In my experience, people aren’t rude in public and nice behind closed doors; it’s the other way around. So if Dantonio is willing to be a jerk in front of several hundred high school coaches, those high school coaches ought to be able to figure out what he’ll be like if they send their players to Michigan State.
Overall, this event seems like a black eye for MSU and Dantonio and likely has little to no effect on Michigan and Hecklinski. Nobody is going to look down on Hecklinski for the way he acted, even if he did go over his allotted time. The only significant windfall that could come from this event is a bump in respect for Michigan’s coaches over MSU’s, as if that weren’t already the case. Brady Hoke and his staff have earned rave reviews for their relationships with local coaches. Rich Rodriguez was maligned for his failure to connect with local coaches, and Dantonio benefited from that, earning in-state respect almost by default. But in comparison to Hoke and his staff, Dantonio was already falling behind . . . and this incident won’t help him. In the 2012 recruiting class, Michigan already has the top four and six of the top seven prospects in the state, according to the Detroit News.
The last tidbit comes from a respected poster on a Rivals message board:
Wanna know why MD was so upset? He was upset before it ever started, because for the SECOND year in a row, the moment you walk in the building there is a huge table spread out with all of UM’s camp and clinic info, brochours, practice visit info, etc. A grand spread. And for the SECOND year in a row, MSU’s table is small and stuck off to the side in a corner. Buddy said the entire MSU staff was PISSSSSSED the moment they arrived yesterday, and they bolted out of there as soon as they were done today. The UM staff, meanwhile, is still there mingling with the HS coaches and putting on a very nice representation of the U of M. In fact my buddy got to sit with Funk all alone and shoot the shit about OL coaching for a half hour last night.
After losing the Big Ten championship game, getting passed over by the Sugar Bowl for Michigan, and getting left behind while Brady Hoke gets invited to national coaching award ceremonies . . . it seems like Dantonio might be feeling a little bit inferior.
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