Before we dive too deep into this, it’s worth pointing out what a base Dantonio’s built at Michigan State — the Spartans are coming off a co-Big Ten championship and look ready to contend again in 2011, so it would be tough for him to justify a move elsewhere. And, as ESPN’s Bruce Feldman points out (via Adam Rittenberg), being a Tressel protege might make replacing Tressel too awkward of an idea for Dantonio.
Still, though, Dantonio had success in Columbus as Ohio State’s defensive coordinator and has since proven himself as a head coach at both Cincinnati and MSU. If Ohio State’s looking for a guy that it knows can handle the rabid Buckeyes fans and is familiar with the in and outs of the Big Ten, Dantonio’s a prime candidate.
The wild card in any OSU-related speculation is possible pending NCAA sanctions — the general consensus is that Tressel stepped down just prior to the situation in Columbus escalating further, and the NCAA’s no doubt going to have something to say about what happened under Tressel’s watch.
How harsh those sanctions turn out to be could wind up playing a deciding role in just how high Ohio State shoots in its coaching search.
If the Buckeyes somehow sidestep serious punishment, then they’re still boasting one of the top jobs in the nation — rabid fan base, strong area for recruiting, a university committed to the program and a history of great success.
Even for Dantonio, who’s put down roots in East Lansing, the allure of an Ohio State position would likely at least pique his interest.
Much like Michigan’s hiring of Brady Hoke, this next move in Columbus will be a huge one for the future of the OSU program. This Tressel situation has tarnished things, regardless of what the NCAA has to say, and Ohio State will desperately want to bring in someone who can restore some order without losing a step competitively.
Is Dantonio that guy? We’ll have to wait and see, but it’s probably too early for Spartans fans to be worried.