In four seasons under head coach Mark Dantonio, 82 percent (61 of 74) of his players who have completed their eligibility have earned their undergraduate degrees. Photo courtesy of MSU SID.

EAST LANSING, Mich. – Four members of the 2010 Spartan football team participated in spring commencement ceremonies, conducted May 6-8 on the Michigan State University campus: punter Aaron Bates (general management), defensive back Josh Bodell (hospitality business), offensive tackle J’Micheal Deane (interdisciplinary studies in social science – human resources) and safety Jesse Johnson (history). In addition, three other former MSU football players received bachelor’s degrees: defensive end Trevor Anderson (2008-09; criminal justice), kicker Brett Swenson (2006-09; criminal justice) and safety Otis Wiley (2005-08; family community services).

“If you hang around this football program very long, it becomes quite apparent that academics are strongly emphasized by this coaching staff,” Bates said. “The approach is simple: if you succeed in the classroom, you’ll succeed on the playing field. From the head coach down, all the coaches stress that you simply can’t turn things on and off like a light switch. You must be dedicated, disciplined and motivated in all aspects of your life.

“Coach (Mark) Dantonio recruits guys that are committed to taking care of business in the classroom. There’s no doubt that success in the classroom translates into success on the playing field. That’s the culture Coach D has created, stressing the importance and value of graduation as one prepares for life after football.” 

In four seasons under head coach Mark Dantonio, 82 percent (61 of 74) of his players who have completed their eligibility have earned their undergraduate degrees. Seven additional members of the 2010 Big Ten Championship team graduated last December: fullback Nick Bendzuck (finance), tight end Charlie Gantt (media arts and technology), linebacker Eric Gordon (interdisciplinary studies in social science – human resources), safety Marcus Hyde (advertising), tight end Brian Linthicum (general management), linebacker Jon Misch (interdisciplinary studies in social science – humanities) and long snapper Alex Shackleton (geography).

“Graduation is something that these guys have dreamt about for the last four or five years, and these guys are realizing their dream because they mastered the balancing act of managing their time as football players with investing the time and effort to succeed in the classroom,” Dantonio said. “This degree is going to have the greatest impact in their lives. This is why they came to college. All of their hard work has really paid off, and we’re so happy for these student-athletes and their families.

“We tell prospects that we will support them in their efforts to pursue excellence, both in the classroom and on the playing field. We also want to build relationships that will last well past their playing careers. So when these graduates and their families return to campus in the future, it counts just like another win in Spartan Stadium. We strive to establish life-long relationships, not simply ones that last four or five years.”

“Mark Dantonio and his coaching staff have made a commitment to graduating student-athletes,” director of academic services Todd Edwards said. “That commitment begins from the first minute of recruiting contact and it continues throughout the student-athlete’s playing career and beyond. He rarely conducts a team meeting where that commitment to education isn’t emphasized or reinforced. Coach Dantonio and his coaching staff don’t pay lip service to academic success; they’re truly committed to it. The student-athletes are held accountable for their work in the academic arena, and the staff provides positive reinforcement by recognizing guys for a job well done.

“It was a satisfying and gratifying weekend indeed as these student-athletes achieved an important milestone in their lives.”