- Associated Press - Sunday, September 19, 2010

NEW YORK (AP) - Imagine if every decision you made at work was scrutinized by millions of people and your livelihood was essentially tied to the performance of a bunch of college students.

That’s the life of big-time college football head coaches such as Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio, who had a heart attack after his team’s thrilling 34-31 victory against Notre Dame on Saturday night.

It’s a 24/7 job that once a week requires a major presentation. Except for a coach, the conference room is a stadium packed with crazy fans and television cameras.

While it’d be a stretch to say coaching is hazardous to one’s health, the fact is the lifestyle is not conducive to staying fit. Late nights in the film room, meals grabbed here and there, hours away from family and precious little down time _ all of it contributes to stress.

“There is nothing healthy about it,” former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach said Sunday.

The 54-year-old Dantonio is expected to make a full recovery after having surgery early Sunday to put a stent in a blocked blood vessel leading to his heart. He’s expected to remain in the hospital a few more days, but when he returns to the sideline is unclear.

He definitely won’t be back to work when Michigan State plays Northern Colorado on Saturday.

And to be sure, the news of Dantonio’s condition caused more than a few coaches to take notice Sunday.

“Obviously, it hits you right away, not only for the individual and the person Mark Dantonio, but as a coach in the profession,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. “You go through the emotions of the game and obviously you think about your own self in terms of are you taking care of yourself, are you getting the right checkups and those kinds of things?”

Dantonio’s heart attack comes less than a year after Florida’s Urban Meyer was hospitalized with chest pains after the Southeastern Conference championship game. Meyer went so far as to resign, though that lasted only 24 hours and he instead he took a leave of absence after being diagnosed with esophageal spams. He is taking medication to fight the problem.

Doctors say the type of work-related stress that can lead to medical problems is often caused by lack of time and lack of control _ two items football coaches deal with every day.

Leach was the coach at Texas Tech for 10 years before being fired after last season.

He said eating right and getting regular exercise was almost impossible for him during the football season. It wasn’t just the practices, meetings and game planning that consumed his day. Being the football coach at a major university is a lot like being the CEO of a huge company, multimillion-dollar salary included.

“There’s the stress of dealing with the day-to-day and the ups and downs of 120 different people, most of them ages 18-22,” said Leach, who is working as a television analyst for CBS College Sports this season and hopes to be back in coaching next year. “There is also the politics that go into a university and some of the bureaucracy.”

Add to that media obligations and the time it takes to act as an ambassador for the program with fans and alumni, and it’s no surprise Leach says he would generally sleep 4-6 hours a night.

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