Mark Dantonio

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Lawyers for Mark Dantonio seeking legal fees from former MSU recruiting director Curtis Blackwell

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Lawyers representing former Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio in a federal lawsuit filed by former Michigan State recruiting director Curtis Blackwell are seeking reimbursement for legal fees as the case appears to be heading for possible dismissal. According to Mlive.com, Dantonio’s legal team is seeking up to $214,153 to cover legal fees tied to the case.

One of Dantonio’s lawyers, Thomas Kienbaum, is optimistic his client will receive reimbursement but does not expect a full compensation.

“Have I ever gotten anything close to what I think this judge will award? Nope, never,” Kienbaum said, according to the MLive.com report. “I’ve never asked for anything close to this, never been an occasion for it.”

Blackwell filed a lawsuit against Dantonio and Michigan State University in Nov. 2018 on the claim a contract not being renewed was a violation of the contract. Blackwell also claimed Dantonio and the program were guilty of various NCAA violations connected to recruiting and job placement opportunities for recruits. Dantonio resigned as head coach of the program shortly after the lawsuit documents were submitted. Blackwell later filed another lawsuit piling on the program and Dantonio once again.

In March of this year, a federal judge has recommended the original lawsuit be tossed due to a belief Blackwell’s lawyers were misusing the court process to harass defendants, including Dantonio.

After sleeping on MSU possibility, Pat Narduzzi says ‘I’m here at Pitt’

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A day after a vacancy to be head coach at Michigan State opened up, former Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi said he is not a candidate for the job. Narduzzi reportedly mulled over the possibility of being the next head coach of the Spartans overnight and confirmed his commitment to the Panthers on Wednesday.

“I’m here at Pitt and I want to be here at Pitt,” Narduzzi said when speaking with the media at a signing day press conference on Wednesday (according to PGH Sports Now). “That’s where I want to be.”

Mark Dantonio resigned as Michigan State’s head coach abruptly on Tuesday. Dantonio stepped down as head coach on the eve of the second National Signing Day, bringing an end to his 13-year run as head coach of the Spartans. Although Mike Tressel has been named the program’s interim head coach, Michigan State is currently conducting a national search for its next head coach. Narduzzi was quickly pegged as a likely candidate for the job.

Before taking the opportunity to become a head coach at Pittsburgh in 2015, Narduzzi had been a long-time assistant under Dantonio. When Dantonio left his position as defensive coordinator at Ohio State to become the head coach at Cincinnati in 2004, Dantonio hired Narduzzi from Miami Ohio to be his defensive coordinator with the Bearcats. After three seasons at Cincinnati, Dantonio was hired by Michigan State to be its new head coach in 2007. Dantonio brought Narduzzi with him to continue serving in the same role as a defensive coordinator. Narduzzi held that job in East Lansing for eight seasons before getting a job offer from Pitt to be the head coach. The 2020 season will be Narduzzi’s sixth season as head coach of the Panthers.

Not surprisingly, Narduzzi and Pitt Athletics Director Heather Lyke were sure to touch base and get on the same page on short notice once news of Dantonio’s resignation spread.

“We talked about the situation that presented itself yesterday afternoon and wanted to make sure he knew that we wanted him to be at Pitt,” Lyke said, according to PGH Sports Now. “It’s a relationship business, that’s what we’re in, and so I just connected with him and got his thoughts on what he was thinking.”

We don’t typically talk about coaches and signing day decisions for head coaches, but this may be the best signing day news for Pitt football the program could have asked for. Earlier today, it was reported Michigan State also swung and missed on Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell. Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell may not be in the running either.

CFT Previews: New Era Pinstripe Bowl

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WHO: Michigan State (6-6) vs. Wake Forest (8-4)
WHAT: The 10th New Era Pinstripe Bowl
WHEN: December 27th at 3:20 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Yankee Stadium in Bronx, New York
THE SKINNY: Michigan State and Wake Forest will meet for the first time when they step onto the field at Yankee Stadium, home to Major League Baseball’s New York Yankees and the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. The ACC-Big Ten matchup sees two programs that arrive in the postseason under much different circumstances. Wake Forest is looking to win nine games for the first time since 2007 as Dave Clawson has the Demon Deacons continuing to take steps forward as a program. Meanwhile, Mark Dantonio has Michigan State back in a bowl game for the 11th time in his 12-year run as head coach of the Spartans, although this year Michigan State slid their way to postseason eligibility by having to defeat Maryland at home in the final game of the season.

Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke hasn’t exactly had a banner season in East Lansing. He leads a struggling Michigan State offense with 16 touchdown passes to 12 interceptions, but hopes to end his collegiate career on a high note. Lewerke has been roughed up at times this season but will get to start the final game of his career. How long he remains the quarterback for Michigan State remains to be seen as Dantonio has said he will not shy away from playing sophomore Rocky Lombardi if a change of pace is necessary. A jolt on offense is always welcome for Michigan State as the Spartans rank 101st in the nation in total offense. Fortunately, the defense helps keep games from getting too out of hand most of the time, and that could be the case here.

Clawson is all about improving the offensive structure, and that is just what has been done with Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons come into the bowl season ranked 12th in the nation in total offense with 474.4 yards per game. But they will also be banged up for the game with leading wide receiver Sage Surratt out due to season-ending shoulder surgery. That will likely make Kendall Hinton a go-to option for Wake Forest. Hinton may be lacking in touchdowns (3) but he is certainly going to rack up yardage (70 receptions for 953 yards). Wake Forest’s quarterback situation will also be something to watch with starter Jamie Newman banged up and Sam Hartman preparing to go if needed.

Although Wake Forest’s offense will be tested physically by the Spartans, there may be enough scoring drives in them to edge Michigan State in the Bronx.

THE PICK: Wake Forest 20, Michigan State 17

No. 15 Michigan pounds Michigan State into submission, 44-10

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Shea Patterson threw for 384 yards and four touchdowns as No. 15 Michigan (8-2, 5-2 Big Ten) blew out in-state rival Michigan State (4-6, 2-5 Big Ten), 44-10. The Wolverines outscored the Spartans 44-3 after the first quarter to easily keep their momentum going at the end of the season. It is the first home win for Jim Harbaugh against rivals Michigan State and Ohio State. Will Harbaugh be able to complete the rial sweep at home in two weeks?

The way Michigan has been playing lately, it is a wonder how Michigan lost two games this season. While Michigan did complete well in a loss to Penn State a month ago, the game against Wisconsin is one Michigan would probably most like to get a do-over in. Instead, a blowout win over Michigan State keeps the program moving toward a possible spot in a New Years Six bowl game. On the other end of the spectrum, Michigan State’s season is continuing to spiral in the wrong direction, and a 34-point loss to its top rival won’t help matters in East Lansing for head coach Mark Dantonio.

Michigan out-gained the Spartans 467-220 despite nearly splitting the time of possession right down the middle (Michigan State had the football for 3:05). Neither team gave up much on the ground, so it was the play of the quarterbacks that would be a major difference. Advantage, Michigan. Patterson had one of his best performances in a Michigan uniform, while Brian Lewerke was intercepted twice and completed 17 of 30 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown. Patterson was without an interception. The player of the game for the Wolverines may have been receiver Ronnie Bell, who caught nine passes for 150 yards (although with none for a touchdown).

Bell has more than made up for his one glaring drop this season against Penn State. Coincidentally, Michigan has turned things on since that Penn State game. Since trailing Penn State 21-0 four games ago, Michigan has outscored its opponents 148-38.

Michigan will play on the road next week against Indiana. The Hoosiers lost in a tight battle at Penn State on Saturday as Michigan was playing Michigan State. Michigan’s regular-season finale at home against Ohio State is coming up on the horizon, but the Hoosiers always find ways to keep things interesting against the Wolverines too.

The Spartans will need to win their final two games in order to become bowl eligible. Michigan State will travel to Rutgers next week looking to keep the bowl hopes alive. Michigan State ends the regular season at home against Maryland. If nothing else, the schedule is about as favorable as it can get for Michigan State with bowl hopes on the line.

Mark Dantonio responds to accusation made by former staffer

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A day after an alarming story accused Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio of recruiting a player he was warned could be a potential problem, Dantonio has responded alongside his lawyer. Dantonio defended himself against the claims of former assistant Curtis Blackwell and re-directed to previous comments Dantonio made regarding the player in question.

“The fact that Mr. Blackwell’s contract was not renewed has nothing to do with Auston Robertson,” Dantonio said in a statement on Friday. “Two years ago, I spoke at length about Auston Robertson when he was dismissed from the team in 2017. Rather than engage in a public argument with a former staffer, I refer you to those previous statements. Further, there have been multiple investigations into the program’s handling of sexual assaults, including Jones Day in 2017 and the NCAA in 2018, and they concluded that the program and myself committed no violations.”

Blackwell, a former Michigan State recruiting director, claimed he and multiple coaches asked Dantonio not to continue recruiting Robertson, who was guilty of misdemeanor battery in high school and later was arrested and charged with assault to his girlfriend just after his freshman season in East Lansing. Robertson was later removed from the program.

Dantonio concluded his statement by saying he will have no further comment due to ongoing litigation.

“Mr. Blackwell’s lawsuit concerns his allegations that his contract was not renewed because he refused to co-operate with investigations being conducted by the MSUPD and a law firm hired to evaluate the MSU football program’s compliance with sexual assault reporting policies,” Dantonio’s lawyer, Tom Kienbaum, said in a separate statement. “The lawsuit has nothing to do with the recruitment or actions of any student athletes, including Auston Robertson.”