In getting ready to take his MSU basketball team overseas to open its season, Tom Izzo expressed plenty of opinions about football today – on referees, close games, young teams and fan apathy by students.
The empty seats in the southeast corner of Spartan Stadium stuck out like a spotlight. That’s the MSU student section, and it was the second straight home football game at which the stands had large pockets of vacancy – about 35-50 percent empty, I’d say.
“I sat there until the end. I don’t want to hear about it being too cold. If it is, we’ve got a bunch of wimpy students,” Izzo said.
Izzo had plenty to say about traveling to Germany and where his own team is after two exhibition games, but here’s what he had to say about Saturday’s football game.
Can you get in trouble for criticizing football refs?
“Probably. From what I saw, it’d probably be worth the fine. … I don’t think I can either. What I saw, there … I guess more than officials, I wish we’d come up with, if we can tell if a guy stepped out of bounds, if we can use replay for that. Any game changing events, there’s got to be replay. I probably could get in trouble. Like I said, I don’t really care, my wife probably would. Needs new shoes. What I saw and then what I watched, it’s just too bad. Because it’s just something that changes a season. It really, really does. It changes a whole season. They’ve got a chance to bounce back yet, but football, one game makes a monstrous difference. It was a game, we had our chances, I’m sure Mark said that, but nobody said we’re the greatest team in the word. And so, when you’re not, which 95 percent of us aren’t, little things make a difference and it’s harder to overcome. And I thought that was one of them.”
How have you tried to console Dantonio?
“I talked to him last night. You have those years. I went home after the game and I watched Notre Dame and I watched the guy miss a chip shot and this seems to be Notre Dame’s year. And we’ve been in years where we’ve lost six or seven games by two or three points. It’s amazing, I learn something from football every single year — good, bad, compare my team to it, look at it and it was a teaching moment for my team yesterday. And I just said, let’s look at what is it, 7 seconds left in the Michigan game, and 6 seconds left when this game was caught. Wasn’t it at the buzzer when they tied to the Iowa game? A fumble that should’ve been picked up and run for a touchdown or whatever. And that game, that’s four that I can count. I’m not saying you should win them all, a couple of those we deserved to win, and now you’re 8-2. It’s just a big difference.
“As a coach, I can look at that, talk to Mark about that and look at it from that standpoint. As a fan, it’s harder to do that. And I understand that. But when you sit down and tell your team that you can play 59 minutes and 43 or 42 seconds one way and then, as Mark said to me, it’s like a missed free throw, a missed field goal chip shot is like a missed free throw. But when you play that many minutes worthy of winning and then lose games, in basketball those things even happen more frequently. So I tried to make it a teaching moment for our team to learn and yet, realize that, a week later all anybody cares about is the score. And that’s what you have to do. And Mark’s a big boy, he can handle that. It’s just, I feel bad when at the end of the season, and I’ve gone through a couple myself, where those couple of games, I mean you’re decent to great with a couple of those seconds, when really you played the rest of the game the same way. And because of a play, a call, a free throw, a this, you’re looking at the seasons completely different, when the job they did, the overall job was maybe good enough to be … the record shapes the opinion. … When really the body of work, has been, I think very good under the circumstances of injury and a new quarterback and everything. But the record sometimes shapes (the opinion).”
Does the attendance in the student section bother you?
“I don’t know what’s wrong with the students. They need to take a look at it, I mean they do. I think the product has been good enough in both. And we need to take a look at that. I thought the crowd was pretty good on Saturday as far as the rest of it. But I thought the Iowa game and that, it’s all part of the three prong coach, administration, team, fans. That’s the three reasons people win and lose games. And if people want credit for what they do, which I’ve given them a lot of, and I think they’ve got to look at, if you’re not a part of the reason for success, you are a big part of it if you’re a fan. I say it’s a third a part. So yeah, it’s disappointing, I can’t figure it out. But hopefully, in both sports we’ll try to get to the bottom of it, because there’s got to be some reason. And it disappoints me for Mark (Dantonio), because I think he’s earned the right, and I do think it is a right. You can tell me about the ticket prices. You can tell me all the baloney, because the tickets are sold. It’s not about the ticket prices. It’s about the passion and the enthusiasm, and football’s earn the right, he’s not allowed to say this, I’m allowed to say this, I have been disappointed with it for them, because they’ve done such a good … last year, I went to the last game.
“I sat there until the end. I don’t want to hear about it being too cold. If it is, we’ve got a bunch of wimpy students. That was a beautiful day for a football game on Saturday, I loved it.”
Saw you made an appearance in the student section.
“Mark Hollis does that. He said, ‘Why don’t you come with me?’ I said I’d love to. And I love our students. I love our students. I think we’ve just got to, students have to hold students accountable. And we ain’t blaming this on Hollis and we’re definitely not blaming this on Dantonio. We’ve got to self-evaluate. It’s hard to do. It’s really hard to do. But, I know one thing, if they don’t want to be there, we’ll find ways to get people there. Give me the tickets, I’ll get people there.”