At Michigan State, Tom Izzo’s Words Are Not to be IgnoredPosted by Chris Johnson on September 9th, 2013
Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.
If there was any debate about who is the most influential sports figure on Michigan State’s campus, a funny exchange before Saturday’s Spartans home football game against South Florida effectively ended it. One week after some Michigan State students refused to leave the student section when inclement weather prompted an evacuation from Spartan Stadium bleachers, athletic director Mark Hollis – known to college hoops fans more for his innovative non-conference scheduling endeavors than anything else – used a different method to urge fans to depart the bleachers when thunderstorms approached the area. He summoned basketball coach Tom Izzo, a man no Spartans fan (or even college basketball fan) could possibly ignore (or even slightly resent), to hasten students’ exodus from Spartan Stadium. Only there was a trade-off: in exchange for leaving their seats, Izzo vowed to return to the student section when the game began. Mlive.com beat writer Diamond Leung captured this little back-and-forth, and Izzo, per usual, offered a few candidly humorous quips:
“I’m going to ask you for respect for of our university, myself and you guys,” Izzo told the crowd. “If you can just walk out and abide by it, I promise I’m going to come back and sit right in the middle of you when this game starts, all right?
“I’m going to watch you guys. Please do this for you, for me, for the university, as we show ourselves across the nation as the university that can get it done right.
“I’m going to be right in the middle of you! Come on guys! I love you! I love you! Thank you so much for doing this! And you adults over there, all you adults, same thing! You adults, you better get out of here! It’s coming right over here! It’s coming, and it’s coming fast. Thank you so much. You’re the greatest fans in America, and I love you!”
There are a couple of extenuating circumstances to point out here. First off, I’m not so sure why Michigan State fans would be so eager to sit through thunderstorms to watch a team who through two games has scored just two offensive touchdowns. In fact, Shilique Calhoun, a defensive end, has actually outscored the Spartans’ offense, having notched three touchdowns. For the love of the game, I suppose? More relevant to hoops is the fact Izzo was hosting two of the nation’s top recruits in 2014, point guard Tyler Ulis and shooting guard Devin Booker, on official visits. Was Izzo trying to leave an impression on the potential future Spartans visiting campus? Most certainly not. But did his plea – which, you know, worked – offer visible evidence of his stranglehold on the Spartans students sports consciousness? I would like to think so. Izzo also evoked a bit of in-state rivalry pride to make his proposal even more convincing; after taking the microphone and laying out the stipulations of his promise, Izzo went on to describe the “putrid yellow” on the weather radar heading towards East Lansing that “reminds me of Michigan.”
Few coaches in college basketball boast as much sheer cultural clout, with the requisite winning capital to back it up, as Izzo. He is one of college basketball’s iconic head men. And students, obviously, adore him. It’s football season, but based off the way Michigan State’s offense looks to date, by the time hoops season rolls around Spartans fans will be eager shift their focus to the hardwood. Izzo is a major reason why.