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MSU Coaches on the Road Draws Capacity Crowd In Grand Rapids

Tom Izzo at the DeVos Children's Hospital on Wednesday afternoon in Grand Rapids.

May 28, 2009

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Seventeen Michigan State head coaches traveled to Grand Rapids on Wednesday in the first stop of the inaugural MSU Coaches on the Road tour. The successful event, which provided fans a special opportunity to enjoy a casual tailgate with the coaches, attracted more than 650 people to the Meijer Gardens and will continue with its second stop next Friday, June 5 at Novi's Rock Financial Showplace.

The afternoon began with an inspiring autograph session at the DeVos Children's Hospital, where the coaches signed Michigan State posters and took pictures with patients for an hour.

"So many people come to Michigan State for athletic events, but this gives us a chance to come out and meet people," said head football coach Mark Dantonio. "The visit to the children's hospital was unbelievable for us. It's a chance to touch people's lives, and they have a chance to touch ours. I think this is a great idea, and it also promotes the togetherness in our athletics staff as well.

"One of the reasons my wife and I decided to come to Michigan State was to make a difference. You have a big platform here at MSU, and as the football coach, you have a window of opportunity. We want to give back and to help people in the community."

"Anytime you can be a bright spot for children, especially for children in those positions, it's overwhelming," said women's basketball head coach Suzy Merchant. "Just to see the nursing care and the family atmosphere that was there in that room, and what everyone does to put a smile on those kids' faces, if Michigan State can be a small part of that for a day, it's well worth every minute we spend in there."

Following the visit to the DeVos Children's Hospital, the coaches went to Meijer Gardens, taking part in media interviews and a VIP reception before signing autographs for 90 minutes.

The main event of the program took place in the Grand Room, where Athletics Director Mark Hollis, student-athletes Blair White and Stephanie Kebler, and all of the head coaches spoke to the crowd.

"People have asked me what I enjoyed most about today, and I've looked at it from three ways," men's basketball coach Tom Izzo told the standing-room only crowd. "First, is when you have kids and you go to a children's hospital, it brings you back to reality a little bit. When you meet some of these kids and can put a smile on their face, you realize once and awhile that winning is not always the most important thing, which is healthy and good.

"The second is to see all of you," Izzo continued. "We've played in a lot of big games over the years, and I tell our players there are alums watching from all over the world. I always tell our guys to make MSU proud.

"And No. 3 - and I give Mark Hollis credit for this - is being able to spend time with all of the coaches. There are not a lot of times we get to do this, and it's been a lot of fun."

"We really appreciate how much the fans support us," said White, who graduated earlier this month with nearly a 3.9 GPA in human biology but is still eligible to play football in 2009. "For everyone to help us out so we can play on Saturdays, it really means a lot. We're all proud of Michigan State."

The June 5 event will be held at the Rock Financial Showplace in Novi. Tickets are priced at $25 for adults and youth 13 and older and include all food and beverages. Children 12 and under will be admitted for free; however, a ticket will be required for admission. The capacity for the Coaches on the Road event in Novi is 700 and tickets must be purchased in advance.

To order tickets online, visit

The Coaches on the Road tour is sponsored by the MSU Alumni Association, Spartan Fund and MSU Athletics Department.

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