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2018 Closing Arguments: Can Michigan State Climb The Mountain Again?

SDCCU Holiday Bowl - Michigan State v Washington State Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

I. Case History & Opening Statement

A. Case History

What a difference a year makes. Going into last season, there was real doubt as to whether Mark Dantonio’s program would recover from the on- and off-field turmoil of the preceding year, particularly as the Larry Nassar catastrophe blossomed into a national headline. MSU reversed its fortunes as dramatically as the plunge from ‘15 to ‘16, knocking off Penn State in dramatic fashion, retaking Paul Bunyan, and getting back to the postseason in style with a controlling bowl win over Washington State.

B. Opening Statement

If you had said, a year ago, that the MSU football program would become an eddy of calm when compared to the rest of the university, you might justifiably have been examined for the vapours. Between the 3-9 record, 4 players dismissed for sexual assault, and a boatload of transfers, expecting anything more than a fight for bowl eligibility would have required a dose of green Kool-Aid somewhat beyond your recommended daily levels.

And they stand, beneficiaries of an uncommonly well-prepared group of sophomores and freshmen in that, as good as last year was, this year could be even better. An unfavorable home/road conference schedule reverses, the program had a silent offseason off the field, and with all the youth that played last year, MSU returns more total production than anyone in the country.

II. Discovery/Presentation of Proofs

B1G 2018 // MSU Cocktail Party

B1G 2018 // MSU Coaching Staff Changes

B1G 2018 // MSU Potluck

III. Closing Statement

The football should be a lot of fun for MSU fans this season. Both offense and defense return the large majority of their playmakers. If there’s improvement in a few spots - run-blocking up front, depth at defensive end, a bit more playmaking in the return game - contending for the conference and beyond will be on the table.

The football is a lot more fun to talk about than the real stuff. Shortly after the end of last football season, national attention zeroed in on the end of the Larry Nassar trial, in which dozens of survivors of his abuse unspooled their stories and Michigan State, one of two massively powerful entities that had allowed it all to happen, began a master’s exhibition of how not to handle a crisis. Current interim president John Engler has been far from a conciliatory presence, but MSU did come to a $500 million settlement which is expected to handle both present and future claims - though that number may not even be the end of the story.

With all of...that...hanging in the Ingham County air, in a week and a half, tens of thousands of people will flock once again to campus for the home opener. Whether they (we) choose to acknowledge it or not, the relationship each of us has with our school has or should change.

Amidst a quiet summer for MSU, Maryland and Ohio State have taken their turns to step forward with their own horrendous events, and even idyllic Wisconsin has now gotten into the act. Fans will still pack those stadia (or at least OSU and Wisconsin’s).

The sheer volume of bullshit raining down from other universities might convince some of us that whatever is going on at our school is nothing out of the ordinary, or at least nothing we need concern ourselves with - or, if your particular institution has yet to grab the headlines in this way, you might be stupid enough to convince yourself that “we do it right.”

We can’t do that, guys. The Big Ten’s history of holding itself above other conferences has been a fun punchline for the rest of the country this summer, and for prideful Midwesterners, that should be bad enough. But whether your school has kept its dirty laundry private to this point or not, sooner or later we should all confront the reality of big-time college athletics and what it does to the universities we cherish. Look on the bright side, though. Whatever you do, this machine will keep moving either way. That’s how I’m still watching. Maybe it’ll work for you, too.