Around the Big Ten: Dantonio is back

Conference play returns to the Big Ten this week, but more importantly, so does Mark Dantonio.

The Michigan State coach will coach from the press box when the Spartans play Wisconsin this week, two weeks after suffering a heart attack the morning after his team’s dramatic overtime win over Notre Dame. Dantonio held his weekly press conference for the first time since the heart attack Tuesday, then re-joined the Big Ten teleconference.

“I just want to thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers over the past few weeks,” Dantonio said in his opening statement. “It’s good to be back.”

Dantonio said offensive coordinator Don Treadwell would still serve as interim coach when circumstances dictate, and that he would be closely watched to see what he could and could not do.

“I feel pretty good,” he said. “And I’ll just ease into this as any injured player would.”

Dantonio said the experience of watching his team on television instead of on the sidelines was “surreal,” but that it offered him a different perspective than he had before. He also said it reaffirmed his faith in his staff and the system the program has in place.

Dantonio was asked if he was a changed man. The experience isn’t likely to make him change his habits, mostly because he’s regarded by most as being extremely fit, but he said the experience could change him as a person.

“I guess time will tell,” he said. “You go through something like this, you become a little wiser, a little more compassionate maybe. I guess that’s a better question for the people around me than it is for me.”

Other notes:

  • The general consensus among coaches was that they’d like to stick with eight conference games as opposed to moving to nine as commissioner Jim Delany is proposing. Coaches said they’d be willing to deal with the nine-game format, and believed that the Big Ten would make it equitable, but that they liked the idea of having an equal amount of home and away games in conference and the ability to schedule four non-conference games. “I think a lot of us would like to stay at eight,” Illinois coach Ron Zook said. “But I think we’ve already said we’re going to go to nine, and we’ll be behind the conference either way.”
  • Several coaches were asked what they thought about the potential conference race with six conference teams in the AP Top 25. Most of them were complimentary of the conference, but pointed out that they really didn’t have any idea what to say yet. “We’re all undefeated so far,” Wisconsin coach Brett Bielema said. “And this week, half of us are gonna win, and half of us are gonna lose.”