Depending on how things play out both on and off the field over the next couple of months, Michigan State could have a decision to make when it comes to its current head football coach.
In February of 2016, MSU announced that it had reached an agreement on a revamped contract for Mark Dantonio that pushed his annual guaranteed compensation to north of $4 million. Since that extension, which came off of three straight 10-win seasons and four in five years, the Spartans have gone 24-21, including a 4-3 record thus far in 2019. Combine that recent futility with an offense that has languished near the bottom of the Big Ten during that stretch — and was the impetus for the coach to chafe at reporter’s dumb-ass question on at least one occasion — and you have chatter surrounding Dantonio growing louder by the week.
Add that on-field unevenness with off-field issues that will play out in court at the end of the season, and you have a growing number of individuals inside and out of the program questioning how much longer Dantonio, who is in the midst of his 13th season in East Lansing, will continue on as the Spartans’ coach.
All of which brings us right back to that contract. Or, more specifically, language in the contract that would pay Dantonio a one-time bonus of $4.3 million if he’s the head coach through Jan. 15, 2020, the Detroit Free Press reported this past week.
The payment is designated as a “recognition of his long service to the University.” According to the Free Press, it’s “one of the largest one-time lump-sum bonuses in college football” history.
If he’s fired or resigns prior to that date, Dantonio would receive none of that bonus but would be in line for a $7 million buyout if the departure is without cause.
Dantonio is being sued by Curtis Blackwell, a former Michigan State recruiting director. Blackwell accused Dantonio of being aware of the potential dangers of recruit Auston Robertson. Robertson committed to the Spartans despite having a misdemeanor battery incident in high school. Robertson was later arrested and charged with assault of his girlfriend early in his freshman season at Michigan State.
Earlier this month, a federal judge ruled that Dantonio’s deposition in the case can be delayed until after the college football season. That same judge ruled against a motion made by Dantonio’s lawyers to limit the scope of the questioning when the coach is finally deposed.
The Free Press notes that the deposition is likely to take place around the time of the deposition.