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he Michigan State Spartans football program represents Michigan State University in college football as members of the Big Ten Conference at the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision level. Michigan State has won or shared a total of six national championships (1951, 1952, 1955, 1957, 1965 and 1966), two Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association championships (1903 and 1905), and eight Big Ten championships (1953, 1965, 1966, 1978, 1987, 1990, 2010 and 2013). Currently 24 former Spartans are playing in the NFL. The team's iconic Spartan helmet logo has been ranked as one of the game's best.
The team competes in Spartan Stadium, a 75,005 person football stadium in the center of campus, though frequently the stadium holds more than 80,000 spectators. Michigan State hired Mark Dantonio on November 27, 2006 as head coach. MSU's traditional archrival is the University of Michigan, against which they compete for the Paul Bunyan Trophy. Michigan State is one of three Big Ten teams to have an annual non-conference football game against the University of Notre Dame.
Starting as a club sport in 1885, football gained varsity status in 1896. Early teams at the then Michigan Agricultural College (MAC) competed in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA), which was chartered in 1888 and is the oldest existing collegiate leagues in the United States. Previously, in 1884, Albion College and Michigan Agricultural had played in the first intercollegiate football game held within the state of Michigan. The MIAA's other charter members included Albion, Olivet and Hillsdale Colleges. The Association's first season of competitive football was in 1894 which by then also included Eastern Michigan University (then Michigan Normal School) and Alma College; Kalamazoo College was added in 1896. In those early years the MAC Aggies could only accomplish one outright league football championship (1905) and share another with Albion (1903). The first decade of the 20th Century generally saw the MIAA and MAC being dominated by either Albion or Olivet Colleges. MSU left the league and became an Independent in 1907.
During the 1950s when Detroit was known as the world's leading automobile manufacturer, Michigan State was often referred to as the nation's "football factory." It was then that the Spartans churned out such impressive models as Lynn Chandnois, Dorne Dibble, Don McAulliffe, Tom Yewcic, Sonny Grandelius, Bob Carey, Don Coleman, Earl Morrall and Dean Look. In 1951, the Spartans finished undefeated and untied to claim a share of the national championship with Tennessee. A second consecutive undefeated season led to a consensus national title in 1952. The team was admitted into the Big Ten as a regular member in 1949. They promptly went on to capture the league championship (losing only one game during the season) and beating UCLA in their first Rose Bowl game. After the 1953 season Biggie Munn, the Spartan coach, turned the team over to his protégé Duffy Daugherty. The team won the Rose Bowl in 1954, 1956, and 1988.
From the creation of Division I-AA (now called Division I FCS) in 1978 through the 2008 season, Michigan State never played a I-AA/FCS opponent, holding out longer in doing so than all but four other FBS schools. The Spartans ended their streak by opening the 2009 season against FCS member Montana State.