EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Mark Dantonio was introduced as Michigan State's head football coach on Monday and said it felt like a homecoming.
"This is a dream come true for me," said Dantonio, a former Spartan assistant who spent the past three seasons as head coach at the University of Cincinnati. "It's great to come back and it's great to be home."
President Lou Anna Simon said Dantonio received a warm welcome Monday from football players and others associated with Spartan athletics, many who knew him from his time with the program in the late 1990s.
"He was greeting old friends - people who respect him, people he respects," Simon said.
Dantonio was introduced at an afternoon press conference by his wife, Becky.
Dantonio said his vision is to win championships at Michigan State. He said the school has the resources to compete at the highest level, but it won't be easy.
"My job and my aim is to bring all the Spartans together. ... It will take all of us to come together. I can't do this alone," he said.
The Michigan State Board of Trustees unanimously approved a recommendation to hire Dantonio at a special meeting Monday morning. The five-year contract guarantees Dantonio about $1.1 million a year. It also has a $200,000 signing bonus and incentives that could boost his income.
Michigan State first interviewed Dantonio on Saturday night, followed up by a second interview with Simon on Sunday morning.
"Everyone agreed, head and shoulders, this was the right person for the job," athletic director Ron Mason said.
Dantonio, 50, is a former Michigan State assistant who has been head coach at Cincinnati for the past three seasons. He has an 18-17 record, including a 7-5 mark this season with a win over previously unbeaten Rutgers. The Big East school is awaiting a bowl bid, its second under Dantonio.
Dantonio replaces John L. Smith, who was fired while completing his fourth season with the Spartans. Smith finished with a 22-26 record, including a 4-8 mark this year.
Dantonio is the school's ninth coach since the Duffy Daugherty era ended in 1972. The Spartans have won at least eight games in consecutive seasons once and have played in only one Rose Bowl since 1966.
Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, LSU defensive coordinator Bo Pelini, Central Michigan coach Brian Kelly, Philadelphia Eagles assistant Pat Shurmur and Miami Dolphins assistant Charlie Baggett also were candidates for the opening.
Dantonio's head coaching experience worked in his favor, along with his ties to the school.
He was an assistant at Michigan State from 1995 through 2000 under Nick Saban and Bobby Williams. Dantonio left for Ohio State, where he was defensive coordinator for three seasons. He also was an assistant at Kansas, Akron, Ohio and Youngstown State.
The Bearcats hired Dantonio in December 2003, and he went on to become the first coach in school history to have a winning record in his first season, with seven wins, including a victory over Marshall in the Fort Worth Bowl.
After taking a step back with a 4-7 record in 2005 with a young team, Dantonio led Cincinnati to another solid season this year.
Dantonio might be able to help Michigan State recruit in the talent-rich state of Ohio.
The Zanesville, Ohio, native got the first big break at Ohio State, where Earle Bruce hired him in 1983. He also was a defensive coordinator at Youngstown State under Jim Tressel, who later brought Dantonio with him from the Division I-AA school to Ohio State.