Michigan State Spartans
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Michigan State Spartans

Michigan State Spartans
UniversityMichigan State University
ConferenceBig Ten
NCAADivision I (FBS)
Athletic directorAlan Haller[1]
LocationEast Lansing, Michigan
Varsity teams(23 in 2021)
Football stadiumSpartan Stadium
Basketball arenaBreslin Student Events Center
Baseball stadiumDrayton McLane Baseball Stadium at John H. Kobs Field
Other arenasMunn Ice Arena
Jenison Field House (Wrestling)
Fight songVictory for MSU
ColorsGreen and white[2]
Michigan State Spartans wordmark.svg
Big Ten logo in Michigan State's colors

The Michigan State Spartans are the athletic teams that represent Michigan State University. The school's athletic program includes 23 varsity sports teams. Their mascot is a Spartan warrior named Sparty, and the school colors are green and white. The university participates in the NCAA's Division I and the Football Bowl Subdivision for football. The Spartans participate as members of the Big Ten Conference in all varsity sports. Michigan State offers 11 varsity sports for men and 12 for women.[3]

The university's previous athletic director was Mark Hollis, who served in the position from January 1, 2008 to January 26, 2018, when he resigned, along with others at the University, due to fallout from the USA Gymnastics sex abuse scandal involving former MSU Medical School faculty member Dr. Larry Nassar.[4] Bill Beekman assumed the position on an interim basis, until July 17, 2018 when he was named to the permanent post.[5]

MSU's football team has won or shared six national championships in 1951, 1952, 1955, 1957, 1965 and 1966, and has won the Rose Bowl in 1954, 1956, 1988 and 2014.[6] Its men's basketball team won the NCAA National Championship in 1979 and 2000.[6] The MSU men's ice hockey team won national titles in 1966, 1986 and 2007.[6]


In 1925, the institution changed its name to Michigan State College of Agriculture and Applied Science,[7] and, as an agricultural school, its teams were referred to as the Aggies. Looking to move beyond its agricultural roots, Michigan State held a contest to find a new nickname. They had decided to call the teams the "Michigan Staters". George S. Alderton, a local sports writer for the Lansing State Journal decided the name was too cumbersome and went through the entries to find a better and more heroic name. He decided on the "Spartans", but sadly forgot to write down who submitted the suggestion.[8]

With a heroic name, the "Spartans" quickly caught on as the teams' new nickname. They later changed the lyrics of the Fight Song to reflect the name change of the College and its sports teams.[9]

As the college grew, it looked to join a major collegiate conference. When the University of Chicago eliminated varsity football and withdrew from the Western Conference (now the Big Ten) in 1946, Michigan State president John A. Hannah lobbied to take its place. Despite opposition from the University of Michigan, the Big Ten admitted M.S.C. on May 20, 1949.[11] After joining the conference, head football coach Clarence L. "Biggie" Munn led the Spartan football team to the Rose Bowl in the 1953-54 season, beating UCLA 28-20.[12] Successor coach Hugh "Duffy" Daugherty carried the football team to a second Rose Bowl where it again defeated UCLA, 17-14.[13]

Sports sponsored

Men's sports Women's sports
Baseball Basketball
Basketball Cross country
Cross country Field hockey
Football Golf
Golf Gymnastics
Ice hockey Rowing
Soccer Soccer
Swimming and diving* Softball
Tennis Swimming and diving*
Track and field+ Tennis
Wrestling Track and field+
+ - Track and field includes both indoor and outdoor.
* - Dropping after 2020-21 academic year.

Michigan State has 23 NCAA Division I-A varsity teams: 11 varsity sports for men and 12 for women. They participate in the Big Ten Conference except fencing, where until 1997, from the University founding, MSU featured fencing as a varsity sport. During that time, MSU was coached by the first American recognized as a master of fencing, Charles Schmitter, for 45 years, from 1939 to 1984. Upon his retirement, his student, Fred Freiheit, coached from 1984 until fencing was demoted from varsity status in 1997. The Michigan State University Fencing Club is a competing member of the Midwest Fencing Conference, which consists of sixteen (16) schools with varsity or club programs.



Men's basketball

Michigan State's men's basketball team has won the National Championship two times: in 1979 and 2000.[14] In 1979, Earvin "Magic" Johnson,[15] along with Greg Kelser,[16] Jay Vincent[17] and Mike Brkovich, carried the MSU team to a 75-64 win against the Larry Bird-led Indiana State Sycamores. In 2000, three players from Flint, Michigan, Morris Peterson,[18] Charlie Bell[19] and Mateen Cleaves,[20] carried the team to its second national title. Dubbed the "Flintstones", they were the key to the Spartans' win against Florida 89-76.[21] In addition to the two Championships, the 2008-09 team reached the NCAA Championship game, but lost to North Carolina 89-72.[22]

Since 1995, Michigan State has been coached by Tom Izzo, who has a 606-231 record through April 5, 2019.[23] Izzo's coaching helped the team make six of twelve NCAA Final Fours from 1999 to 2010, winning the title in 2000 and leading ESPN to define MSU as the best team in that decade.[24] Michigan State basketball has been selected for 22 consecutive NCAA tournament bids under Izzo. The Spartans have won one NCAA Championship, nine Big Ten Regular Season Championships, and six Big Ten Tournament Championships (the most of any team in the Big Ten) under Izzo. The team has made two NCAA Championship games and advanced to eight Final Fours, 10 Elite Eights, and 14 Sweet Sixteens under Izzo.

Overall, Michigan State has won two NCAA Championships, 15 Big Ten Regular Season Championships, and six Big Ten Tournament Championships. The Spartans have appeared in three NCAA Championship games, 10 Final Fours, 14 Elite Eights, 20 Sweet Sixteens, and made 30 NCAA Tournament appearances.[25]

Spartans formerly or currently in the NBA include Adreian Payne, Deyonta Davis, Bryn Forbes, Denzel Valentine, Maurice Ager, Alan Anderson, Charlie Bell, Shannon Brown, Mateen Cleaves, Paul Davis, Terry Furlow, Jamie Feick, Draymond Green, Johnny Green, Gary Harris, Earvin "Magic" Johnson, Greg Kelser, Mike Peplowski, Morris Peterson, Zach Randolph, Shawn Respert, Jason Richardson, Scott Skiles, Steve Smith, Eric Snow, Sam Vincent, Jay Vincent, and Kevin Willis.

Women's basketball

MSU also has a fairly successful women's basketball team, with its greatest accomplishment being a national runner-up finish to Baylor in 2005. MSU's women's basketball started in 1972-73 under coach Mikki Baile. The women's team has had five coaches in its history. The Spartans current coach is Suzy Merchant. The Spartans have made one National Championship game, one Final Four, one Elite Eight, three Sweet Sixteens, and appeared in 15 NCAA/AIAW Tournaments.


Michigan State's classic 'S' logo

Football has a long tradition at Michigan State. Starting as a club sport in 1884, football gained varsity status in 1896.[26] During that time, the Spartans had a roster of impressive players, including Lynn Chandnois, Dorne Dibble, Meredith Assaly, and Don McAulliffe. In 1951, the Spartans finished the season undefeated, and performed the same feat the following year in addition to the nation's longest winning streak of 24 games. The team was named the "undisputed national champions by every official poll".[27]

After waiting for several years, the team was finally admitted into the Big Ten Conference as a regular member in 1953. They promptly went on to capture the league championship (losing only one game during the season) and beating UCLA in their first Rose Bowl game. After the 1953 season Biggie Munn, the legendary Spartan coach, turned the team over to his protégé and future legend Duffy Daugherty. Daughtery went on to win the 1956 Rose Bowl. George Perles was the head coach when the Spartans defeated USC in the 1988 Rose Bowl.[28]

The current coach is Mel Tucker, who was hired on February 12, 2020.[29] His predecessor Mark Dantonio ammassed a 114-57 record in his coaching tenure before his retirement on February 4, 2020.

Under Dantonio, MSU has won three Conference Championships, 2010, 2013, and 2015. The Spartans have won three Big Ten Divisional championships and two Big Ten Championship games during that period. In 2015, MSU was selected for the College Football Playoff as the No. 3 seed, but lost to Alabama in the Cotton Bowl.[30] He also led the Spartans to a victory in the 2014 Rose Bowl, the 100th edition of the "Grandaddy of them all."[31]

All told, Michigan State has won six national championships and nine Big Ten championships.[32]

Today, the football team competes in Spartan Stadium, a renovated 75,005-person football stadium in the center of campus.

MSU's traditional archrival is Michigan, against whom they compete for the Paul Bunyan Trophy; MSU has a 23-34-1 record in the annual trophy game. The Spartans have won the trophy seven of the past eight years, as of 2015 season.[33]

Michigan State's rivalry game against Notre Dame, with whom they compete for the Megaphone Trophy was played every year until 2013. MSU's record in the trophy series against the Fighting Irish is 26-34-1.

Notable MSU alumni who have played in the National Football League include Morten Andersen,[34] Plaxico Burress,[35] Andre Rison,[36] Derrick Mason,[37] Muhsin Muhammad,[38] T. J. Duckett,[39] Flozell Adams,[40] Julian Peterson,[41] Herb Haygood, Charles Rogers,[42] Jim Miller,[43] Earl Morrall,[44] Wayne Fontes,[45] Bubba Smith,[46] Tony Banks,[47] Percy Snow,[48] Rob Fredrickson, Jeff Smoker, Tony Mandarich, Lorenzo White, Hank Bullough, Drew Stanton,[49] Devin Thomas, Tupe Peko, Domata Peko, Chris Morris, Greg Montgomery, Paul Edinger, Javon Ringer, Chris L. Rucker, Chris Baker, Sedrick Irvin, Eric Smith, Greg Jones, Brian Hoyer, Garrett Celek, Jack Conklin, Shilique Calhoun, Bennie Fowler, Will Gholston, Keith Mumphery, Max Bullough, Donavon Clark, Joel Heath, Jeremy Langford, Darqueze Dennard, Dion Sims, Tony Lippett, Lawrence Thomas, Kellen Davis, Trae Waynes, Jerel Worthy, Connor Cook, Aaron Burbridge, Kirk Cousins and Le'Veon Bell.

Cross country

Historically, the Michigan State Cross Country men's team has been one of the school's most successful programs. Between World War I and World War II, Michigan State College competed in the Central Collegiate Conference, winning titles in 1926-1929, 1932, 1933 and 1935. Michigan State also experienced success in the IC4A, at New York's Van Cortlandt Park, winning 15 team titles (1933-1937, 1949, 1953, 1956-1960, 1962, 1963 and 1968). Since entering the Big Ten in 1950, Michigan State has won 14 men's titles (1951-1953, 1955-1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1970 and 1971). Michigan State hosted the inaugural NCAA cross country championships in 1938 and every year thereafter through 1964 (except a one-year vacation in 1943 due to war). The Spartans won eight NCAA championships from 1930 to 1959, including 1939, 1948, 1949, 1952, and 1955-1959 (minus 1957).[50][51][52] Walt Drenth is the current director of both the men's and women's cross country and track and field programs. After joining MSU in 2004, Drenth led the men's cross country team to an NCAA Championship bid during the 2004 season. The women's cross country team also advanced to the NCAA Championship Meet after winning the Great Lakes Regional race.[53]

Ice hockey

"The Cold War"

Michigan State has two varsity hockey teams: a men's ice hockey team and a women's field hockey team. Helen Knull is the head coach of the women's field hockey team.

The men's ice hockey team plays at the Munn Ice Arena. The head coach was Rick Comley, who had a 116-73-19 record at MSU.[54] The current head coach is Danton Cole. In the 2013-2014 campaign, the Big Ten Conference debuted Division I ice hockey, (Michigan State formerly competed in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association with Big Ten sister schools University of Michigan (U-M) and the Ohio State University).[55]

On October 6, 2001, the team was involved in what was then the most-attended hockey game in history: The Cold War. The Spartans set up a hockey rink in the middle of their football stadium, Spartan Stadium and played U-M before a crowd of 74,554. The game ended in a 3-3 tie.[56] A decade later, the same two teams were again involved in the most-attended ice hockey game in history. This time, Michigan hosted the rivalry game at its Michigan Stadium. The Big Chill at the Big House set the current record with an officially certified crowd of 104,173.[57]

The MSU ice hockey program has seven CCHA regular season championships and 11 CCHA Tournament titles. MSU has also won 11 Great Lakes Invitational titles. The Spartans have been in the NCAA tournament 23 times, with nine Frozen Four appearances and three national titles (1966, 1986 and 2007). On April 7, 2007, the Michigan State Spartans won their third Collegiate Championship by beating the Boston College Eagles 3-1.[58]

Former Michigan State players in the National Hockey League include Rod Brind'Amour,[59] Anson Carter,[60] Duncan Keith,[61] Donald McSween,[62] Adam Hall,[63] John-Michael Liles, Torey Krug, Shawn Horcoff, Justin Abdelkader, Jim Slater, brothers Kelly Miller[64] and Kip Miller,[65] as well as their cousins, brothers Ryan Miller[66] and Drew Miller.[67] Two players for MSU have won the Hobey Baker Award: Kip Miller in 1990 and Ryan Miller in 2001.[68] Few other players also excelling in other leagues including forward Brock Radunske and defenseman Brad Fast.


The MSU women's fastpitch softball team won the 1976 Women's College World Series to take the AIAW national title, the only team east of the Mississippi River to win the WCWS until Michigan did it in 2005. The team has appeared in six Women's College World Series, in 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977 and 1981.[69] Its coach, Jacquie Joseph, has headed the program since 1994.[70] Since taking over the program, Joseph has helped bring MSU to a record of 668-677-1 and four NCAA Regional appearances.[71]


Wrestling was one of the earliest sports formed at the Michigan Agricultural College. While the sport was dropped in 1906, it was reformed by the college 16 years later in 1922.[72] The school's wrestling team has won the NCAA Division I championship once, in 1967.[73] Its current coach head coach is Roger Chandler. Prior to Chandler becoming head coach, their head coach for 25 years was Tom Minkel who produced 33 All-Americans, 11 Big Ten Champions and one NCAA Champion.[74] The Spartan wrestling team competes on campus at the Jenison Field House which has a capacity of 5,017 people. Former Spartan Wrestlers Bobby Nash, Gray Maynard, and Rashad Evans are current UFC fighters. Maynard is a former 2 time UFC Lightweight Title challenger and Evans is a former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion.

Starting in the mid-2000s. the Spartan wrestling team started to decline. From 2004-2016, the team had one season better than .500 and finished in the bottom half of the Big Ten, including last on four occasions.[75] During the 2015 championship tournament, the team finished dead last with negative team points (-0.5) thanks to only one qualifier and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Minkel announced that he would retire after the 2015-16 season.

Michigan State University Spartan Wrestling team accomplishments:

  • 8 Big Ten Titles (1961, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972)
  • 57 individual Big Ten Conference Champions
  • finished in the top-five at the NCAA Championships 9 times
  • 24 individual NCAA Champions dating back to 1936
  • 100+ All-Americans dating back to 1931[76]

Other varsity sports

MSU has a number of other team sports. As in many other NCAA institutions, Michigan State has a baseball team for men and a softball team for women. Jake Boss Jr. is head coach of the MSU baseball team. Former Michigan State players in Major League Baseball include Kirk Gibson,[77] Steve Garvey,[78] Robin Roberts[79] and Mark Mulder.[80] Since 2007, the baseball team plays a popular annual exhibition game against the nearby minor-league Lansing Lugnuts.

The Spartans also have a men's soccer team, which won two back-to-back championships in 1967 and 1968. They shared the 1968 title with the University of Maryland, College Park.[81] The men's coach is Damon Rensing, who is in his 6th year as head coach at Michigan State.[82] The men's soccer team battles Michigan annually in the Big Bear Trophy game, a series in which the Spartans lead 10-3-1 against their in-state rival.[83] Coaching the women's team is Jeff Hosler.[84]

There is also a volleyball team; Cathy George has been the head coach of the women's volleyball team since 2005. During her first year at Michigan State, she led her team to a 12-18 record, including a 5-15, ninth-place finish in the conference standings.[85]

There are a number of contact sports at MSU, including boxing and wrestling. MSU's boxing team won national titles in 1951 and 1955, although it is no longer an NCAA varsity sport.[86]

Water sports at MSU include rowing and swimming. MSU's women's rowing coach is Matt Weise, who is in his tenth year as the Spartan crew coach. In his third year as MSU head coach, Weise coached the Spartans to a program-best sixth-place team finish at the NCAA Championship.[87] Matt Gianiodis is the head coach of both men and women's swimming and diving. In his four years as head coach, Spartan swimmers and divers have broken 14 varsity records.[88]

Other sports at MSU include golf, gymnastics and tennis. Golf has had a long tradition at MSU. Hall of Fame Coach Bruce Fossum helped carry MSU to its first Big Ten title in 1969.[89] The Big Ten title would elude the Spartans until 2005, when arguably, the best team ever assembled, took home the rings in stellar fashion. Not only did the Spartans win the Big Ten Championship in 2005, but they captured two other titles along the way and rose all the way to #5 in the U.S. Casey Lubahn coaches the men's golf team.[89] A former assistant coach at Stanford University, this is his fourth year as a head coach.[90]

Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll coaches the women's team. In the last ten seasons, she has brought the Spartans to nine straight NCAA regional appearances.[91] Spartan women golfers won individual collegiate national championships on two occasions: Joyce Kazmierski in 1966 and Bonnie Lauer in 1973.

The men's gymnastics team at MSU won one national title, which they shared with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1958.[92] In 2001, the MSU Board of Trustees disbanded the team in order to comply with Title IX regulations.[93] The women's team retained its varsity status. In 2008, the team ranked 17th in the nation in the final season standings, the highest placement in program history.

Gene Orlando is the coach of the men's tennis team. In his 26 years as MSU head coach, Orlando has taken the Spartan men to four NCAA Championships and had a team in 2016 reach the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament Doubles.[94] Coaching the women's team is Kim Bruno, who is in her 4th season at the helm.

Notable non-varsity sports


The Michigan State University Rugby Football Club was founded in 1964.[95] Michigan State rugby has been steadily improving in college rugby in recent years. During the 2010-11 season, the Spartans played in Division 2, finishing with a 10-3 record and qualifying for the playoffs.[96] The Spartans' success led to them moving up to Division 1-AA for the 2011-12 season.[97] For the 2012-13 season, the Spartans once again moved to a higher level of competition--the Big Ten Universities D1-A conference, against traditional Big Ten rivals such as the University of Michigan and Ohio State University. The success of Spartan Rugby is greatly attributed to former head coach Dave Poquette, who had been coaching at Michigan State since 1992 and retired in 2013.[95]

Water Polo

The Michigan State University Water Polo Club was founded and officially recognized November 17, 1967.[98] At the time of its inception, the team played in the Midwest Collegiate Water Polo Association, along with Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State, Loyola, Drake, and Western Michigan. Now competing in the Big Ten division of the Collegiate Water Polo Association, Michigan State is joined by Michigan, Iowa, Indiana, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Purdue, and Illinois, with Ohio State moving to the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. After winning back-to-back Big Ten championships in 1993 and 1994, the Spartans would go the next half a decade without a Big Ten Championship. With another conference championship, the Spartans would go on to win their first national collegiate club championship in 2000. Michigan State would continue to enjoy much success in the 2000s, winning the Big Ten Championship in 2002 and from 2005-2010. This included an impressive four year stretch which included the Spartan's second and third national championships in 2006 and 2008, and runner-up finishes for the national title in 2005 and 2007, as well as a third-place finish in 2010.[99] In 2014, the Spartans would stage a comeback in the final two minutes of regulation to upset Michigan in the Big Ten title game for their eleventh Big Ten Championship, and their seventh in ten years.[100]

MSU Athletics Hall of Fame

In 1992, thirty former Spartan athletes, coaches, and administrators were inducted into the MSU Athletics Hall of Fame as its charter class.[101] On October 1, 1999, the University opened its new Athletics Hall of Fame, in the Clara Bell Smith Student-Athlete Academic Center.[102]


See footnote[103]

Academic All-Americans

See footnote[104]


NCAA team championships

Michigan State has won 20 NCAA national team titles.[105]

Other national team championships

Below are 10 national team titles that were not bestowed by the NCAA.[106]

NCAA Division I Directors' Cup

See footnote[107] and NACDA Directors' Cup
Year Rank: National Rank: Big Ten
1993-94 60th 10th
1994-95 76th 10th
1995-96 41st 8th
1996-97 31st 7th
1997-98 54th 10th
1998-99 34th 6th
1999-00 22nd 6th
2000-01 39th 8th
2001-02 29th 6th
2002-03 26th 6th
2003-04 37th 7th
2004-05 33rd 7th
2005-06 46th 10th
2006-07 34th 7th
2007-08 29th 6th
2008-09 27th 6th
2009-10 39th 7th
2010-11 42nd 9th
2011-12 34th 7th
2012-13 30th 7th
2013-14 29th 7th
2014-15 34th 8th
2015-16 53rd 10th
2016-17 53rd 13th
2017-18 50th 11th
2018-19 47th 11th

See also


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