EAST LANSING, Mich. – Former Michigan State head football coach Denny Stolz passed away on Thursday, May 25. He was 89 (1933-2023).
Stolz joined the MSU staff in 1971 and served as the defensive coordinator for the final two seasons of Hall of Fame Coach Duffy Daugherty’s career before being appointed the program’s 16th head coach on Dec. 13, 1972. The Spartans were 19-13-1 in three seasons under Stolz (1973-75), including back-to-back seven-win campaigns in 1974 and 1975.
After going 5-6 in his first season as head coach in 1973, the Spartans bounced back to finish third in the Big Ten standings in 1974 with a 6-1-1 mark in league action (7-3-1 overall) as Stolz earned Big Ten Coach of the Year honors. MSU closed the season on a five-game winning streak, including a legendary win over top-ranked Ohio State on Nov. 9 in Spartan Stadium. Levi Jackson’s 88-yard touchdown run with 3:17 left in the game propelled MSU to a 16-13 win over the Buckeyes in a game that was ranked among the top 10 games of the 1970s (No. 7) by The Athletic. MSU finished the season ranked No. 12 in the AP Poll and No. 18 in the UPI poll, the best finish for the Spartans in eight years.
Michigan State went 7-4 in Stolz’s final season in East Lansing in 1975, highlighted by a 10-3 victory at No. 8 Notre Dame on Oct. 4.
Following his departure from MSU, Stolz coached for nine seasons (1977-85) at Bowling Green, going 56-45-1 overall and 49-26-1 in Mid-American Conference play, including two league titles (1982, 1985). Stolz finished his career at San Diego State and won a Western Athletic Conference title in his first season with the Aztecs, going 7-1 in league action and 8-4 overall while earning a berth in the Holiday Bowl. He was also named the 1976 WAC Coach of the Year. Stolz was 16-19 overall in three seasons at SDSU (1986-88).
Prior to coaching at Michigan State, Stolz compiled a 35-15 record in six seasons (1965-70) at Alma College and led the Scots to three MIAA titles (1967, 1968, 1970) and two undefeated seasons (8-0 in both 1967 and 1968). He began his coaching career in the high school ranks at Haslett High School (40-13-1 record in eight years from 1955-62) and was also an assistant at Lansing Eastern.
In 21 seasons as a head coach at the collegiate level, Stolz accumulated a 126-92-2 (.577) overall record and was a five-time conference coach of the year (1967 MIAA; 1974 Big Ten; 1982, 1985 MAC; 1986 WAC).
Stolz graduated from Alma College in 1955 and played both football and baseball for the Scots. A graduate of Mason High School who played football, basketball and baseball for the Bulldogs, Stolz was inducted into the Greater Lansing Sports Hall of Fame in 2001.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Coach Stolz and his family,” said former Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio. “I got to know Denny over the years as head coach and always enjoyed our time together. I invited him to practices and he attended games for many years at Spartan Stadium. He really enjoyed seeing his former players at our golf outings. He was a true Spartan.”