Michigan State athletics in the 2010s: Top stories from the past decade

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Detroit News sports writer Matt Charboneau ranks the most notable events during the past decade for Michigan State:

1. Playoff-bound

Two years after upsetting Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game, the Spartans were at it again in 2015 as they traveled to Columbus, and without starting quarterback Connor Cook, beat the Buckeyes on a last-second field goal from Michael Geiger. It propelled MSU to the conference title game, where it used an epic, 22-play drive to beat Iowa before earning a spot in the College Football Playoff for the first time.

MSU coach Mark Dantonio and Alabama coach Nick Saban meet at the center of the field after the Tide beat the Spartans in the 2015 College Football Playoff.

2. Eighth Final Four

Michigan State lost Joshua Langford for more than half the 2018-19 season to a broken foot, while a broken hand slowed big man Nick Ward near the end of the season, but the Spartans followed guard Cassius Winston, who was named Big Ten Player of the Year, to regular-season and tournament championships in the conference before reaching the Final Four by upsetting top-ranked Duke in the regional finals. It was the eighth Final Four berth for coach Tom Izzo and the 10th in program history as the season was highlighted by three victories over Michigan.

3. Hollis steps down

In late January 2018, Mark Hollis stepped down as athletic director after one of the most successful runs in school history. Hollis spent five years on the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee and served as the committee chair in 2016-17. He also specialized in thinking outside of the box, creating the “Cold War” hockey game that led to the NHL regularly playing outdoor games and helped usher in the era of basketball games in football stadiums, today’s standard setup for the Final Four.

Mark Hollis stepped down as Michigan State athletic director in 2018.

4. Hall of Fame for Izzo

The 2016 men’s basketball season ended with a deflating loss to Middle Tennessee State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, but it couldn’t dampen the fact coach Tom Izzo was named to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. The winningest coach in program history, Izzo has led Michigan State to four Big Ten championships in the decade, including three trips to the Final Four. Throughout his career, Izzo has a national championship, eight Final Fours and 22 straight NCAA Tournament appearances, the third-longest streak.

5. Coming up Roses

It had been a quarter of a century since Michigan State had played in the Rose Bowl, making the win over Ohio State in the 2013 Big Ten championship game that much sweeter. The Spartans followed that up by beating Stanford thanks to a fourth-down stop led by former walk-on linebacker Kyler Elsworth. MSU finished the season ranked No. 3, and only an early season loss at Notre Dame kept the Spartans from playing for a national title.

Mark Dantonio celebrates the Rose Bowl win.

6. Leaving legacy on links

The women’s golf team reached the NCAA regionals in 2019, for the ninth season in the decade — 2015 was the lone exception — with 2015 being the only season under coach Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll’s team did not make the regionals. The Spartans made the NCAA Championships four times (2012-14, 2017) and won the Big Ten championship five times (2011, 2012, 2014, 2017, 2018). Three MSU players were named Big Ten Golfer of the year — Laura Kueny (2010), Caroline Powers (2013) and Sarah Burnham (2017, 2018) — while Slobodnik-Stoll was inducted into the Women’s Golf Coaches Association Hall of Fame and the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame in 2017.

7. Soccer success

The men’s soccer team capped off a three-year run of success in 2018 by reaching the College Cup for first time under coach Damon Rensing and the first time as a program since 1968. Midfielder Giuseppe Barone earned first-team All-America honors and was named Big Ten midfielder of the year. The season followed an Elite Eight appearance in 2017.

Giuseppe Barone, Big Ten midfielder of the year, led Michigan State to the College Cup.

8. Hot March

After a third-place finish in the Big Ten regular season, the Spartans put together a March run in 2015 that included reaching the Big Ten tournament championship game followed by a Final Four run as a No. 7 seed. Michigan State rode the hot shooting of senior guard Travis Trice to wins over No. 2 Virginia, No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 4 Louisville before falling to No. 1 Duke in the national semifinals.

9. Dantonio’s first title

In his fourth season as Michigan State’s head coach Mark Dantonio in 2010 was able to end a 20-year drought as the Spartans shared the Big Ten championship with Wisconsin, the first time it had finished atop the conference since 1990. The season began a run of double-digit victories in five of the next season four of the next five seasons? as the Spartans would add two more conference titles in that time.

Jake Boss had Michigan State baseball rolling in the early part of the 2010s.

10. Baseball Boss

In the early part of the decade, the Spartans were making things happen on the diamond. In 2011, the Spartans won a share of the Big Ten regular-season title for the first time since 1979 and reached the championship game of the conference tournament for the first time since 1992. Jake Boss was named Big Ten coach of the year, and though MSU missed out on the NCAA Tournament, it earned a berth in 2012 — its first since 1979 — by winning 37 games.

Complete decade look-backs

Tigers | Lions | Red Wings | Pistons | UM athletics | MSU athletics 


Twitter: @mattcharboneau