July 26, 2012
By Steve Grinczel, Online Columnist
CHICAGO - With the horror of the Colorado theater shooting still fresh on everybody's mind, Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio didn't need another reminder of how fragile life can be.
Nevertheless, he got one that struck especially close to home when he learned that junior long snapper Steve Moore sustained a season-ending neck injury during a diving accident last Saturday.
"It was traumatic," Dantonio said Thursday at a Big Ten Football Media Days interview session. "I was shocked. It just shows you how a person's life can change within five seconds. We all need to be thankful and feel blessed in terms of what we have and where we're at."
Dantonio said the surgery to repair Moore's fractured C4 vertebrae was successful.
"As I talked to him about it, the shock is over, you deal with the facts, and now you have a starting point and you move forward," Dantonio said. "Thank God that he is not paralyzed, that he has all feeling and will walk and will have a full, normal life. We should be thankful for that."
GoG Notes and Quotes:
Moore handled the long snapping in MSU's Outback Bowl victory against Georgia because Matt Giampapa was suspended for violating team rules. Giampapa has since transferred to Tennessee and Moore was going to compete for the full-time job with incoming freshman Taybor Pepper, from Saline High School.
"Taybor Pepper is a freshman we recruited as a scholarship snapper, and I've never recruited a scholarship snapper before," Dantonio said. "The guy was ranked No. 2 or 3 in the country and was excellent, and we feel very good about that position."
Dantonio supports the Big Ten's decision to allow current Penn State players to transfer to fellow conference schools without having to sit out a year in the wake of sanctions imposed by the NCAA in response to a child-sex-abuse scandal.
However, MSU will not pursue a Penn State player who doesn't initiate the dialogue, according to Dantonio.
"If they're going to allow transfers, then Big Ten schools should have equal footing especially when you take into consideration that the majority of those players were probably recruited by Big Ten schools and they have personal relationships with a lot of the coaches and the institutions," he said. "What we have done is if people have contacted us, a coach, a parent, we've followed through. And, that's the extent of it."
Whether MSU would accept a transfer from Penn State will depend on the Spartans' need at particular positions, how many years of eligibility the player has remaining and previous interaction during the recruiting process with the player and his high school coach.
"When (the players) step back and try to analyze things they say OK this is the best decision for me and my life and my family, and they make decisions," Dantonio said. "Michigan State's standpoint is we're going to try to be above board in terms of how we handle things and try to do it with integrity."
Dantonio wouldn't disclose which Penn State players, or how many, have expressed interest in transferring to MSU due to the respect he has "to the players that would be involved."
The Penn State situation, Dantonio said, "is certainly unprecedented. There are no winners here. My reaction was it's very sad for the victims and everybody involved."
The NCAA and Big Ten suspensions of Penn State and Ohio State from postseason play leave just Wisconsin, Purdue, Illinois and Indiana eligible to represent the Leaders Division in the second Big Ten championship game.
Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald proposed dealing with the competitive imbalance that exists between the Leaders and Legends divisions by forming a temporary selection committee that would choose the league's top two teams for the title game regardless of divisional affiliation.
"Maybe our division winner should automatically be in the championship, and then you take the other teams that are eligible (from both divisions) and we put a committee together, the 12 (athletic directors), and commissioner (Jim) Delany as the 13th vote, and kind of (decide) how we're doing the playoff," Fitzgerald said. "I like the idea of maybe having two guys from our division in."
Although the Spartans were passed over by the BCS despite winning the Legends crown last season, Dantonio stopped short of endorsing Fitzgerald's plan.
"Those decisions have to be made at higher level than a coach, first of all," he said. "Secondly, I think nobody knew how this was all going to play out a week ago. I think the relatively newness of all this has to settle in. When the NCAA makes decisions like this, you don't take into account probably the impact it's going to have in other areas.
"It has a rippling affect, and that's one of the ripples. I'm sure they'll talk about it, and address it and we'll see how it all shakes out. My concerns are going to be, what do we have to do to be in that final game."