LOS ANGELES – Stanford's David Shaw and Michigan State's Mark Dantonio have built powerhouse teams over the last few years, and so far they've both stuck around when bigger football powers with deeper pockets came calling.
When the Spartans and Cardinal clash in the 100th edition of the Rose Bowl on Wednesday, Dantonio and Shaw will demonstrate the power of persistence in building a winner.
Shaw usually just chuckles when he's connected with head coaching vacancies in the NFL or at the nation's top college programs.
"To be honest, it's unbelievably flattering," he said Monday. "I think it's really cool."
In his own understated way, Dantonio takes the same approach to their unpredictable profession.
"When we came here 7 years ago, we made a statement this is where we wanted to come," Dantonio said. "We're here now. We've accomplished that goal. Now we need to figure out, do we belong? That's another opportunity, statement, challenge."
Both coaches have turned themselves into valuable properties by building formidable programs – and then staying at two schools sometimes considered stepping stones instead of destinations.
Shaw is 34-6 in three seasons in charge at Stanford, banking two Pac-12 titles during the remarkable renaissance created alongside departed coach Jim Harbaugh. Dantonio is 63-29 at Michigan State since 2007, winning at least 11 games in three of his last four seasons.
Such success quickly leads to higher-profile opportunities, and other winning coaches at both schools have used these jobs as springboards to big money and power.
Tyrone Willingham turned a moderately successful tenure at Stanford into the Notre Dame job in late 2001, while Nick Saban infamously left Michigan State for LSU shortly before the Spartans' bowl game in late 1999.
But when Shaw and Dantonio are asked about their own desirability, both coaches play it off with a combination of amusement and outspoken loyalty to the schools that put them in this position.
Shaw has been a part of four straight trips to BCS bowls – an unthinkable standard just a few years earlier at the academic dynamo better known for Nobel Prizes than football trophies. Shaw isn't offended by the attention he receives from other schools, but he also has never sounded terribly interested in leaving his alma mater.
He appeared at the top of many Southern California fans' wish lists earlier this month, but openly laughed at the notion of moving south.
"I don't mind it, [but] I have no desires to pursue another job," said Shaw, who has 9 years of NFL coaching experience. "I have not and don't plan on interviewing with anybody. I think it's really nice that my name gets batted around ... but honestly, I'm looking forward to playing this game and getting into the offseason and starting to put together another winning season next year."
Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis already has discussed a raise with Dantonio, who has appeared on speculative lists of candidates for Texas' vacancy. Hollis also plans to bump the pay of Dantonio's assistant coaches.
Although he claims to be flattered by the idea of his candidacy elsewhere, Dantonio said he's happy with the impressive program he has built in East Lansing.
The coaches share more than loyalty. Stanford and Michigan State both embrace hard-nosed, run-first football with suffocating defenses led by coordinators Derek Mason and Pat Narduzzi — two rising coaches who might be better candidates for new jobs than their bosses.
Shaw respects Dantonio for his handling of starting middle linebacker Max Bullough, who won't play in the Rose Bowl after a rules violation. Shaw thought back to his painful decision 2 years ago to suspend Shayne Skov for a game after the star linebacker was arrested.
"There's a guy that's very similar," Shaw said. "Your game-day leader, your middle linebacker, the guy that sets your defense, the guy that tells everybody what to do. Being a head coach, it's your responsibility. Actions like that, as a head coach, even help you in your locker room because guys know where the line is and they know that nobody is bigger than the program.
"I applaud Coach Dantonio for that, because it doesn't happen everywhere. There are a lot of places where you get a slap on the wrist and they bench you for a practice, and then play you in the game."
Dantonio said Kyler Elsworth is likely to start at middle linebacker in Bullough's place, but Darien Harris also will play the position. Bullough's replacements will keep his on-field responsibilities, including checking down on certain plays.