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East Lansing — As Michigan State’s football coaching search lurches forward with its perceived top candidate pulling out of the process, the Spartans could turn to a name familiar to many around the Big Ten.

Sources told The Detroit News that Bret Bielema, the former head coach at Wisconsin and Arkansas, is interested in the Michigan State job and that officials from MSU last week reached out to the current outside linebackers coach for the New York Giants. A source also said Bielema is eager to become a head coach again in the college game.

Michigan State is in the process of replacing Mark Dantonio, who stepped down last week after 13 seasons leading the Spartans. On Monday morning, Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell, believed to be the favorite to take over for Dantonio, pulled out of the running and said he was sticking with the Bearcats.

The decision from Fickell came after Pittsburgh coach and former Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi took his name out of the running last week, as did Colorado coach Mel Tucker. San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh also reportedly turned down an interview request from Michigan State.

Bielema had his greatest success in seven seasons at Wisconsin, going 68-24 from 2006-12 and winning a pair of Big Ten championships, beating Michigan State in the inaugural conference championship game in 2011. Bielema left to take over Arkansas before the 2013 season and lasted five years, going 29-34, including 4-8 in his final season of 2017, when he was fired. He then spent two years with the New England Patriots before taking the job with the Giants.

Michigan State’s Board of Trustees is scheduled to meet Monday night to be briefed on the search by the search committee, led primarily by athletic director Bill Beekman and deputy athletic director Alan Haller.

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @mattcharboneau

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