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Michigan State football: Improving fan experience at Spartan Stadium

How could the fan experience be better?

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Michigan State football
© Junfu Han/Detroit Free Press / USA TODAY NETWORK

The fan experience for Michigan State football fans at Spartan Stadium could use some improvements. What would they be?

Over the years, I’ve taken countless trips to East Lansing to attend Michigan State football games. I attended every home game when I was in school from 2011 to 2015. But as time has passed, my number of visits has dwindled. I now live out of state, so it’s a significant time commitment that I’m not always willing to sign up for.

Typical life conflicts prevented me from attending any games in 2019 and 2021. We all know what happened in 2020. But in 2022, I finally found the time to get back to Spartan Stadium for a couple of games.

I was excited to see what had changed after being away from campus for nearly four years. New buildings had gone up. The Breslin Center looked completely rejuvenated. Downtown East Lansing was almost unrecognizable. But after stepping foot inside the concourse at Spartan Stadium, I felt like I was stepping back in time. I expected to see some change in the game experience this past fall. Instead, it felt like every other Michigan State football game I’ve ever attended.

It left me asking a tough question: Is the fan experience at Michigan State outdated?

In speaking with friends, they agreed, to an extent, that some aspects of it certainly are. In the arms race that is college football in 2023, isn’t that a cause for concern? It’s never been easier, or more enjoyable to watch games at home. Shouldn’t Michigan State be doing everything it can to bring people to the stadium? Isn’t a full house on Saturday just as important as anything else to recruits? To current players? To the bottom line financially?

I feel like it is.

I also feel like there are some things that can be done to make that experience more enjoyable. Small things that could be the difference between attending in person or staying at home.

Here are some ideas for Alan Haller or anyone else in a position to make some changes. These first couple are on the house. For more, I may need to charge an hourly rate.

1. Alcohol sales

I’ll admit up front that I am not a local government expert. I’m fully aware that there may be some state or county laws preventing Michigan State from selling alcohol at Spartan Stadium. With that being said, it’s being sold at other venues within the conference. If it can happen there, I have to believe it can happen at Michigan State.

The main concern is that people will over-indulge and become irresponsible. I’d argue that is happening anyway outside the stadium in the tailgating lots. But if the argument is that alcohol sales within the stadium will make that problem worse, I have to disagree.

When there is a deadline, people will drink to it. They’ll drink more than they should, knowing it has to carry them through a four-hour football game. If alcohol is available within the stadium, I think that mentality goes away. The need to slam “one more” 10 minutes before kickoff won’t be as strong if fans know they can enjoy a beverage at their leisure during the game.

The other main concern is underage students getting ahold of alcohol illegally. Again, other schools have been able to figure this out without substantial problems. There has to be a road map. Keep the vendors away from the student section. Implement an ID station to provide wristbands to fans and students over 21. Limit sales to beer and wine only. There are solutions. At the end of the day, Michigan State would be trusting adults to act responsibly. A scary thought, no doubt.

But alcohol is present at nearly every turn in our day-to-day lives. I can sip on Pinot Grigio while I pick out produce at Whole Foods, but I can’t have a beer while I watch the Spartans play the Buckeyes. There are responsible ways to do it. As long as it’s not available within the stadium, some fans are going to find other places to watch the game. It’s time to trust adults until they prove otherwise.

2. Wi-Fi

In my return to Spartan Stadium this past fall, this was probably the addition I was most expecting to see. But, nope. I had to wait to “fly around the country” to get updates on the Alabama vs. Tennessee game. A picture with my brother from our seats wouldn’t be sent. I couldn’t contact the friends I rode with until we were well outside the stadium. It’s 2023. Wi-Fi is in cars, planes, and most sporting venues.

Like it or not, people are addicted to their phones. They want to take pictures and tell their friends they’re at the game. They want to see who else might be at the game. They want to check scores from other games. They want to check Twitter for thoughts and jokes about the game. This would be a huge benefit for the casual fan who is attending for the social aspect of being with friends.

The commercial breaks are longer than ever. Crowd shots, helmet shuffles, and sponsorship promotions are only entertaining for so long. Give fans a chance to check in on their outside lives. It will go a long way.

3. Concessions

How do I say this nicely? The food in Spartan Stadium is… not great? It’s something you’d expect at a high school game. I’m sure that’s fine for some fans. You’re going for entertainment, not for lunch. Others might not eat anything at the game after filling up on food at a tailgate.

At the same time, it’s a 3.5-hour game – usually in the middle of the day. People are going to get hungry. Why not make the food options somewhat exciting? I’m not calling for a massive spread with endless options. But there have to be some local restaurants or vendors that would be willing to work with MSU to offer alternatives to steamed hot dogs and boxed popcorn.

Early in the season, tailgating is all the rage because the weather is nice, and the season is filled with promise. Later on, it’s not as easy when it gets cold or when people feel like they’ve gotten their tailgating fill for the season. Currently, without a tailgate, you may be less inclined to go knowing you’ll arrive minutes before kickoff with a sub-standard hot dog or stale pretzel waiting for lunch.

If the options were expanded though, you could arrive an hour before the game, try something new, grab a beer, and still get that miniature tailgating experience that goes hand in hand with college football.

4. General admission upper deck

One of my favorite aspects about the outfield bleachers at Wrigley Field is that it’s general admission seating. It gives you the chance to watch the game from multiple vantage points. It also creates value for the consumer by allowing him or her to maximize their enjoyment by selecting their own seats.

Want to sit in row one? Get there early. Not as important to you? Arrive when you please. This will never happen in the lower bowl due to season ticket assignments and the student section. In the upper deck though, I think there is a real opportunity for experimentation.

I’ve seen so many MSU games where the upper deck is at half capacity. Would that still be the case if you knew you were buying a seat in rows 1-10 instead of row 30 for the same price? Maybe. Maybe not. The ability to move around within the upper deck and watch the game from different yard markers or sides of the field is an added bonus. If you have a large family or group of friends, this is another creative way to give those people an option to make sure they sit together.

This might not be a feasible solution for all home games. Premium games likely need to follow traditional assigned seating methods. Lesser games against non-conference or low-caliber Big Ten teams could make this an interesting wrinkle for fans looking for a nice bargain.

5. Concourse heaters

When it comes to playing football outdoors in late fall in mid-Michigan, I’d argue the No. 1 deterrent for fans when it comes to attending games is mother nature. Put simply, people don’t like sitting in the cold.

Outside of building a dome (which isn’t going to happen), there isn’t much Michigan State can do. But I do think they can at least try.

The concourse is naturally shielded from the wind, making it warmer than the seats in the stadium. There are a number of outdoor heater options that you see on restaurant patios or hotel awnings. Adding those to the concourse, combined with protection from the wind, could create a warmer environment for fans to congregate.

As noted, college football games are running longer than ever due to reviews and commercial breaks. It’s a long time to ask people to endure the Michigan cold. Attempting to create some sort of a reprieve for fans during halftime or commercial breaks might be just enough to keep people around.

FOOTBALL

Mark Dantonio, 3 other Spartans on CFB Hall of Fame ballot

This one should be a no-brainer.

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Mark Dantonio
© Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Former Michigan State football coach Mark Dantonio, along with three other Spartans, are on the College Football Hall of Fame ballot.

It’s that time of the year when the College Football Hall of Fame releases its ballot and Mark Dantonio, along with three other Spartans, have made the cut for the 2024 class.

Dantonio is one of nine coaches on the ballot at the FBS level and Flozell Adams is one of five offensive linemen — he’s joined by former Michigan lineman Steve Hutchinson and the famous Michael Oher from Ole Miss. Four of the five offensive linemen on the ballot are from Big Ten schools. Darryl Rogers joins Dantonio as one of nine coaches and Gideon Smith is one of 32 coaches from the divisional ranks but he was a trailblazing player for the Spartans in 1915.

Many have been clamoring for Adams to make the Hall of Fame for years while Dantonio feels like a surefire selection and he compares favorably to the other coaches on the ballot.

Let’s take a look at his resume compared to the other FBS coaches on the ballot:

  • Dantonio: 132-74 career record, 7-6 bowl record, 3 Big Ten titles
  • Larry Blakeney: 178-113-1 career record, 2-3 bowl record, 8 conference titles
  • Jim Carlen: 107-69-3 career record, 2-5-1 bowl record, 1 SoCon title
  • Pete Cawthon Sr.: 98-50-10 career record, 0-2 bowl record, 2 conference titles
  • Larry Coker: 86-47 career record, 4-2 bowl record, 1 national title, 3 Big East titles
  • Ralph Friedgen: 75-50 career record, 5-2 bowl record, 1 ACC title
  • Darryl Rogers: 129-84-7 career record, 1-2 bowl record, 2 conference titles
  • Frank Solich: 173-101 career record, 7-9 bowl record, 1 Big 12 title
  • Tommy Tuberville: 159-99 career record, 7-6 bowl record, 2 conference titles

Compared to the others, Dantonio has the fourth-most all-time wins, he’s one of four with a winning bowl record, and he is tied for second-most conference titles.

Dantonio is credited for turning around the Michigan State football program after years of irrelevance. Following the departure of Nick Saban before the 2000 Citrus Bowl, Michigan State was a non-factor in the Big Ten. All Dantonio did was lead Michigan State back to the top of the conference and to its first playoff ever. He also won two BCS/New Year’s Six bowls.

This should be a no-brainer.

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Mark Dantonio lists top favorite 25 plays during his MSU tenure (Video)

This is an awesome list.

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Mark Dantonio
© Jarrad Henderson, Detroit Free Press, Detroit Free Press via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Former Michigan State football coach Mark Dantonio carefully chose his top 25 favorite plays during his tenure.

Former Michigan State Football coach Mark Dantonio is arguably the greatest coach in program history. Dantonio is highly regarded by all Michigan State fans even with the poor state the program was in when he retired. He gave us some of our programs greatest moments in history. Rose Bowl, Cotton Bowl, College Football Playoff and countless massive regular season wins are just a few of the great moments he brought us.

Recently Dantonio sat down with Michigan State and the Big Ten Network. During this meeting, Dantonio gave his Top 25 plays during his Michigan State tenure. This list was made solely by Mark Dantonio. He not only looked at the play itself, but also the impact it had on our program.

Lets dive into them 25-1:

25. Brian Lewerke TD to Madre London at Michigan (2017)

In a game that Michigan State was not expected to win, this was a perfectly run screen pass that scored easily with two linemen leading the way.

24. Connor Cook game-winning TD pass in Cotton Bowl (2015)

This game is one of the greatest in Michigan State history. Michigan State defeated Baylor in the Cotton Bowl after being down by 20 points in the fourth quarter. This pass was the game-winning touchdown in this classic.

23. Brian Hoyer third TD pass to Devin Thomas vs. Penn State (2007)

The play itself seemed pretty normal on its own. But three touchdowns to the same receiver in a win against Penn State definitely deserves to be on this list.

22. Three touchdown runs vs. Michigan

Nothing is sweeter than scoring against Michigan. In the No. 22 spot, Dantonio selected three key touchdown runs in wins against Michigan over the years. This includes touchdown runs from Edwin Baker, LeVeon Bell, and Jeremy Langford.

21. Three touchdowns vs. Wisconsin (2011)

This game is another all time classic in Michigan State history. This selection includes two touchdowns from Keshawn Martin and one from BJ Cunningham. These massive plays all helped setup the magical ending to this game. More to come later on this one.

20. Three interceptions for touchdowns

Dantonio selected three interceptions that were returned for touchdowns in the No. 20 spot. The first was by Darqueze Dennard in the 2012 Outback Bowl victory against Georgia. The other two were massive in big wins over Michigan. Dantonio prioritized the Michigan game ever year, so it is no surprise seeing plays against them all over this list.

19. Game-winning FG vs. Wisconsin (2008)

This game was not as big as others, but a game winning field goal is always exciting. In this one, Brett Swenson hit a 44-yard field goal as time expired to beat the Badgers.

18. Defensive stop to beat Iowa (2008)

I always think defensive plays deserve more love. In this selection, Adam Decker stops Iowa on fourth-and-1 to seal a Spartan victory over the Hawkeyes.

17. Fake punt at Iowa (2013)

Mike Sadler is one of the greatest punters in Michigan State history. In this play, he showed off his legs in a different way. To start the fourth quarter, he successfully ran for 20 yards to pick up a key first down in a very tight game.

16. Another TD run at Michigan (2008)

This play was one of the biggest in this rivalries history. A long run by Javon Ringer helped lead Michigan State to victory for the first time in Ann Arbor since 1990.

15. Blocked FG in 3OT Outback Bowl vs. Georgia (2012)

Another special teams play, this time a blocked field goal in triple-overtime to beat Georgia in the Outback Bowl. I believe winning this game was a turning point for our program, and this play sealed the win.

14. Acrobatic interception vs. Iowa (2015)

Everyone remembers how unbelievable this play was. In the 2015 Big Ten Championship Game, Demetrius Cox pulled off an interception I have never seen before. After a fellow teammate broke up the pass in the end zone, the ball ended up lying on his back. Cox saw the ball, scooped it off his teammates back and helped kill a promising Hawkeyes drive.

13. Negative-48 rushing yards vs. Michigan (2013)

This is another combination of multiple plays. In Michigan States 2013 domination over Michigan, the Spartans’ defense held Michigan to negative-48 rushing yards. Yes, you read that correctly. That is a number I doubt we ever see again.

12. Larry Caper TD run vs. Michigan (2009)

Larry Caper’s 24-yard overtime touchdown run is one of my personal favorite plays of all time. Nothing about the play itself was memorable, but the meaning behind it is everything. This was the first time Michigan State won consecutive games over the Wolverines since 1967. This game also helped springboard the Spartans into their dominant run over Michigan.

11. Brian Hoyer TD pass to Blair White at Michigan (2008)

Another memorable play against, you guessed it, Michigan. This was a 61-yard pass from Brian Hoyer to Blair White early in the first quarter to help the Spartans defeat their in-state rivals again.

10. Connor Cook TD pass to Tony Lippett in Rose Bowl (2014)

The greatest stage in all of college football saw the Spartans beat Stanford in the 100th Rose Bowl. This touchdown pass ending up being the game-winning score in one of the greatest games in program history.

9. Blocked FG in Cotton Bowl vs. Baylor (2015)

This is another play from Michigan State’s historic comeback win against Baylor in the Cotton Bowl. Marcus Rush blocked the Baylor field goal attempt to keep Michigan State only down by six. This setup the game-winning drive at the end of the fourth quarter.

8. Walk-off Hail Mary vs. Wisconsin (2011)

This is another iconic moment in Spartan Stadium history. As time expired, Kirk Cousins threw a Hail Mary touchdown pass to Keith Nichol to upset the Badgers.

7. Jeremy Langford TD run vs. Ohio State (2013)

In the 2013 Big Ten Championship game vs Ohio State, Jeremy Langford sealed the Spartans victory with this long touchdown run. This touchdown put the Spartans up by 10 with two minutes left in the game, ending Ohio States chances and clinching a trip to the Rose Bowl.

6. Walk-off FG at Ohio State (2015)

This play not being higher shocks me. On a night when star quarterback Connor Cook was out injured, Michigan State was still able to pull off the upset road win against Ohio State. Michael Geiger knocked in the winning field goal as time expired. Afterwards, he celebrated with his iconic windmill celebration that I’m sure you all are replicating right now.

5. Little Giants (2010)

I would argue this play is easily the best play call in Dantonio’s career. In overtime against Notre Dame, Michigan State lined up for the tying field goal to force a second overtime. Instead, they faked the field goal, threw the touchdown pass and the rest is history.

4. Trouble with the Snap (2015)

I, for one, am shocked this play isn’t No. 1. Do I even need to remind you what this play is? Jalen Watts-Jackson returned the muffed Michigan punt for a touchdown in 2015 as time expired to win the game. This play will be remembered forever.

3. Game-winning TD vs. Iowa (2015)

Who can forget the iconic final drive against Iowa in the 2015 Big Ten Championship Game. In a drive that was 22 plays long and took over nine minutes, LJ Scott capped it off with his short touchdown run. The mantra that season was “reach higher” and that’s exactly what he did on the run to avoid a Hawkeye tackler. College Football Playoff, here we come.

2. Fourth-down stop vs. Ohio State (2013)

This is the play when we knew we were Rose Bowl bound. Denicos Allen stopped Buckeye quarterback Braxton Miller on fourth down to seal the Spartans victory. I always think defensive plays deserve more credit and I’m glad Dantonio put this play so high on his list.

1. Rose Bowl-clinching stop (2014)

Did you guess this play was coming? Kyler Elsworth’s fourth-down stop against Stanford in the 2014 Rose Bowl is Mark Dantonio’s top play from his tenure. There is no bigger non-playoff stage in college football than the Rose Bowl, so it is no surprise to see the game-winning play at No. 1.

To see the full list on Twitter with a video highlight of each play, click the link below.

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Michigan State football: Washington game time, channel announced

Fans won’t be too thrilled about the channel.

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Michigan State football
© Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington vs. Michigan State football rematch is on Sept. 16, and the Spartans have revenge on their minds.

The game time for the Washington vs. Michigan State football game was just announced and is one I think most Michigan State fans will be happy with. The game will kick off at 5 p.m. ET on Sept. 16.

This is a great start time for Michigan State fans. That will give fans plenty of time to travel to East Lansing, enjoy a tailgate and get into the stadium. On top of that, the game will get down around 8 p.m. ET which is good for the crowd that does not like to be out late.

However, I think a lot of fans were hoping for a noon start time in this game. A noon start would have been a 9 a.m. local time for Washington, likely giving the Spartans a slight advantage. It’s no surprise seeing this big of a game scheduled in the evening to avoid that.

On top of the game time announcement, where the game will be aired on TV was also announced. This is where the good news ends. The Spartans game against Washington will only be available for streaming on Peacock. That means Spartan fans at home will have to pay to watch this game. However, a simple Google search showed me that Peacock currently only costs $20 for the entire year. A lot of Big Ten football and basketball games will only be available on Peacock this season, so that may not be a bad investment to make right now if you can.

What would a win mean for Michigan State football?

Michigan State will have revenge on its mind in this game. Washington beat the Spartans last season in Seattle 39-28. The game however did not feel that close. Michigan State made a late comeback to make the final score look respectable, but a lot of fans will tell you we never really stood a chance.

Washington will likely be a top 10 heading into this matchup, so Michigan State has a great opportunity in front of it. A win would would help spring the Spartans into the conference season with a lot of positive momentum.

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