Mark Dantonio, who brought Michigan State football back to prominence in the Big Ten, announced Tuesday that he would be stepping down as head coach of the Spartans.

“Today makes one of the most difficult decisions that I have ever made here at Michigan State,” he said in a statement on his Twitter account. “ … I will miss it all but feel the sacrifices that I have made away from my family must now become my priority at this time in my life.”

Dantonio also announced that he will transition into a role with the athletic department as a special projects adviser.

In 13 seasons, Dantonio went 114-57, won three Big Ten championships and led the Spartans to 12 bowl games, including a Rose Bowl win in 2013 and a College Football Playoff appearance in 2015. He revived the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry, going 8-5 against the Wolverines.

However, things had been trending down both on and off the field in recent years. The Spartans finished 7-6 each of the past two seasons while the program was mired in scandal. In a lawsuit against Dantonio and other top Michigan State officials, former recruiting director Curtis Blackwell accused Dantonio of ignoring reports of sexual assault against former player Auston Robertson dating back to his high-school days, then scapegoating Blackwell. According to a Detroit News report released Tuesday, Blackwell’s lawyers also accused Dantonio of committing recruiting-related NCAA violations, giving employment to parents of recruits and making home visits with staffers who were not authorized to do so.

Before that, a 2018 ESPN Outside the Lines report found that 16 Spartan football players had been accused of sexual misconduct during Dantonio’s tenure and that the school attempted to suppress those records. Dantonio and other coaches were accused of mishandling the allegations, though were never punished for doing so.

Despite these issues, the athletic department stood by Dantonio throughout the 2019 season. Early in November, Michigan State athletic director Bill Beekman told reporters that firing Dantonio was “not even a discussion.”

Dantonio had a $4.3 million retention bonus in his contract — which has essentially been a lifetime contract since 2011 — that vested on Jan. 15.

His retirement also came a day before National Signing Day, which could throw the Spartans’ recruiting situation into flux — something they can ill afford, given that their 2020 recruiting class is ranked just 10th out of 14 Big Ten teams, per 247Sports. All but three of their commits signed letters of intent on early signing day in December.

The program has announced that Mike Tressel, previously the assistant head coach, defensive coordinator and linebackers coach, will serve as the interim head coach. Tressel worked on the same staff as Dantonio for the last 15 seasons.

Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell has been named in multiple reports as a potential full-time replacement.

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