EAST LANSING - Knowing that his friend Mark Dantonio can't speak out about bad calls and questionable support from the MSU student section, Tom Izzo spoke about both matters during his basketball press conference, Monday at Breslin Center.
"After what I saw, it would probably be worth the fine," Izzo said, presumably in reference to a controversial personal foul call on Johnny Adams which cost MSU an interception return for a TD against Nebraska and a 31-14 lead in the fourth quarter, as well as other debatable calls. "He (Dantonio) can't (talk about the officiating). And I don't think I can either."
Not without a reprimand from the Big Ten office.
Izzo was more willing to be critical of poor attendance in the student section. The section was, by some estimates, one-third empty, or more, throughout the Michigan State-Nebraska game.
"He (Dantonio) is not allowed to say this, (but) I am allowed to say this: I have been disappointed with it," Izzo said of support from the student section.
Izzo watched the game from the student section with athletic director Mark Hollis.
"I don't want to hear about it being too cold," Izzo said. "If it is, we've got a bunch of wimpy students. You know? That was a beautiful day for a football game. I loved it. I sat there till the end.
"I don't know what's wrong with the students. They need to take a look at it."
Students began the year with one of their loudest, earliest-arrivals in the history of the student section for the Friday-night season opener against Boise State. Support began to dissipate with a cold, rainy-weather game against Iowa. On that day, there were scores of empty seats throughout the stadium, not just the student section. Michigan State eventually lost in overtime to Iowa, in a quiet stadium.
There were few empty seats outside of the student section during the Nebraska game.
"I thought the crowd was pretty good as far as the rest of it," Izzo said. "And the crowd in the Iowa game, it's all part of the three-pronged coach/administration/fans. That's the three reasons people win or lose games. If people want credit for what they do, which I've given them a lot of, then I think they have to look at when you're not. You are a big part of it when you're a fan, and I'd say you're one-third a part."
Izzo felt bad for Dantonio.
"It disappoints me for Mark because I think he has earned the right (to get better fan support from students)," Izzo said. "Yeah, it's disappointing. I can't figure it out. But hopefully in both sports we will try to get to the bottom of it cause there's got to be some reason.
"You can tell me about the ticket prices and all that baloney because the tickets are sold. It's not about the ticket prices. It's about the passion and enthusiasm. Football has earned the right."
Hollis invited Izzo to join him in the student section last Saturday.
"Mark said 'Why don't you come with me?'" Izzo said. "I said I'd love to. I love our students."
But he wants more from them.
"Students have to hold students accountable," Izzo said. "We aren't blaming this on Hollis. We definitely aren't blaming this on Dantonio. We have to self-evaluate. Hard to do. Really hard to do. I know one thing, if they don't want to be there, we'll find a way to get people there. Give me the tickets, I'll get people there."
Dantonio has never been critical of fans in any way, often saying he has been "pleased with those that came."
Along the same lines, when asked about attendance after Saturday's loss, Dantonio said: "I was pleased with the crowd, the enthusiasm of the crowd."
Back To Officiating
When Izzo began Monday's press conference, Izzo stepped to the podium, looked around the room at reporters and said, "Are there any officials in the house? They aren't on the top of my list today, after the weekend."
Izzo fielded 20 minutes of questions at the podium, all of them about basketball.
Then later, at the roundtable, the topic of MSU's football troubles inevitably came up, and Izzo calmly, smilingly contemplated whether he wanted to speak his mind about officiating controversies stemming from Michigan State's 28-24 loss to Nebraska.
"I don't know," he said, once again considering Big Ten fines. "I probably would get in trouble. I don't really care. My wife probably would; needs a new pair of shoes.
"I guess, more than officials, if we can tell if a guy steps out of bounds, if we can use replay for that, any game-changing events I think there's got to be replay."
Of course there is no way to over-turn a personal foul call at this time, nor is there likely to ever be.
"What I saw and what I watched, it's just too bad because it's something that changes a season," he said. "It really, really does. It changes the whole season. They have a chance to bounce back, but in football one game makes a monstrous difference."
Izzo reached out to Dantonio on Sunday, as he often does during a football weekend.
"I talked to him last night," Izzo said. "You have those years. I went home after the game and watched Notre Dame and watch a guy miss a chip shot (field goal for Pittsburgh which would have won the game for Pitt in overtime). This seems to be Notre Dame's year. We have been in (basketball) seasons when we have lost six, seven games by two or three points.
"As a coach, I can look at it, and talk to Mark about that from that standpoint. As a fan, it's harder to do that and I understand that.
"Nobody said we're the greatest team in the world. When you're not, which 95 percent of us aren't, little things make a difference and it's harder to overcome and I thought that was one of them, two of them, three of them.
"I feel bad when at the end of the season, and I've gone through a couple myself, you are decent-to-great with a couple of those. You play the rest of the game the same way and because of a play, a call, a free throw, you're looking at the season completely different.
"Mark's a big boy; he can handle that.
"The body of work has been very good under the circumstances, the injuries, the quarterback and everything. But the record shapes the opinion.
Teaching Point For Basketball
Dantonio said he used the plight of MSU football when talking to his basketball team on Sunday.
"It's amazing, I learn something from football every single year," Izzo said. "It was a teaching moment for my team yesterday (in practice). I said let's look at it it, it was :07 seconds left in the Michigan game, and :06 seconds left when this game's (winning touchdown) was caught, and at the buzzer when Iowa tied it, a fumble that should have went for a touchdown (against Ohio State) with the errant whistle or whatever in that game. That's four that I can count. I'm not saying that you should win them all, but a couple of those you deserve to win and now you're 8-2 and it's just a big difference.
"When you sit down and tell your team you can talk 59 minutes and :42 seconds one way, that many minutes worthy of winning and then lose games - in basketball those things happen even more frequently, so I tried to make it a teaching moment for our team, to learn to realize that a week later all that anybody cares about is the score."