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Michigan State football hires new coach


Michigan State has made a decision on its next football coach. On Saturday, the school announced that Jonathan Smith is set to leave Oregon State and take the head coaching job with the Spartans.

Smith has served as the Beavers head coach for the past six years. The 2022 season was arguably his most successful year, with the team finishing with 10 wins and earning a spot in the AP Top 25. Smith also received Pac-12 Coach of the Year honors.

Smith’s name had been previously linked to Michigan State after the Spartans fired Mel Tucker following sexual harassment allegations. The university ultimately determined that Tucker was responsible for violating school policy and terminated the fourth-year coach with cause.

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Jonathan Smith stands on the sidelines

Head coach Jonathan Smith of the Oregon State Beavers stands on the field during the first half against the Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium Nov. 24, 2023, in Eugene, Ore. (Tom Hauck/Getty Images)

“Jonathan has a proven track record of success, building the Oregon State program from the ground up by implementing a plan resulting in sustained historic success for the Beavers,” Michigan State athletic director Alan Haller said in a statement. “He’s been a part of championship staffs, coached in the College Football Playoff, and understands what’s required to be successful at the highest level, learning from some of the game’s most successful coaches.

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Haller also praised Smith for his track record of recruiting at a high level.

“On the field, his teams are tough and physical, yet innovative. This year, Oregon State has controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, ranking among the nation’s leaders in both rushing offense and rushing defense. He’s shown not only the ability to recruit talented student-athletes who fit his system, but also to develop and maximize players once they’re in the program.”

Smith posted a 34-35 record over his six seasons on the Oregon State sideline. After winning just 9 games during his first three seasons at the helm, the program began showing signs of improvement during the back half of his tenure.

Oregon State rewarded Smith with a contract extension following the 10-win 2022 campaign.

Jonathan Smith looks on during a game

Oregon State Beavers head coach Jonathan Smith looks onto the field during the first half against the Utah Utes at Reser Stadium in Corvallis, Ore., Sept. 29, 2023, (Soobum Im/USA Today Sports)

Smith spent his playing days at Oregon State, quarterbacking the team from 1998-2001. 

He then spent a decade and a half working as an assistant football coach with multiple programs, before he landed the head coaching job at his alma mater in 2018.

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He was on the Washington staff when the team won the Pac-12 title and advanced to the College Football Playoff in 2016.

The Pac-12 faces an uncertain future as at least 10 schools are expected to leave the conference prior to the start of the 2024 season.

Jonathan Smith on the field as his team warms up

Head coach Jonathan Smith of the Oregon State Beavers as his team warms up before the SRS Distribution Las Vegas Bowl against the Florida Gators at Allegiant Stadium Dec. 17, 2022, in Las Vegas.  (David Becker/Getty Images)

Smith will now be tasked with helping Michigan State football return to prominence. The Spartans did win 11 games with Tucker at the helm in 2021, but the program has largely lacked the same level of consistent success it saw under former coach Mark Dantonio.

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Michigan State finished the 2022 season with a 5-7 record. The Spartans were shut out by Penn State on Friday to close the regular season with a 4-8 record.



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