BERRIEN SPRINGS — There was a buzzing Tuesday night at the Berrien County Sportsman’s Club, but it wasn’t the summertime chirping of cicadas. Instead it was the sound of nearly 700 Michigan State alumni, friends and fans engaged in conversation and dining.

The Berrien County MSU Alumni Chapter hosted its 33rd Steak and Suds event. Green and white were worn proudly by the 675 participants who paid $35 for entrance. The money raised goes to a scholarship fund established by the school.

The steak dinner, complete with trimmings such as garden salads, potatoes and individual size cakes for dessert, wasn’t the only enticing part of Tuesday’s event. A visit from Spartan football coach Mark Dantonio was the bigger treat.

He shook hands with fans, stopped to take photographs and signed a number of autographs. He even flipped a few steaks.

“It’s been eight years since I’ve been here,” Dantonio said after the food was served. “It’s a great place to be.”

The Spartans had a frustrating season riddled with injuries and close losses last year. They went 7-6, ending the season with a loss in the Redbox Bowl.

“The expectations are high and that won’t change,” Dantonio said. “There has been a winning culture the last 12 years and we are going to keep it up.”

Dantonio outlined some of the team’s goals for this season.

“We want our players to have a relationship with the community,” he said. “They need to have a passion outside of football, and we want to keep winning. That last one we need your help with, you have to come out to the games. I know Berrien Springs has a lot of fans that make the trip every year.”

“We were so close last year,” continued Dantonio. “We were close to winning every game last year. We had a lot of tight games, had a lot of injuries on offense. But we led the nation on run defense and in several other categories. We are proud of that. I’m excited about this season.”

It was one of the largest events the chapter has held, according to chapter leader Bob Gerbel who has director the affair for almost the entire three decades.

“It’s a pretty big deal,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for quite a few years, and there is (no other university) that has anything like this in Berrien County.”

While fellowship was a big drawing point, the fundraising the event generates was more important.

“The meet and greet is for future students,” former alumni engagement director for MSU David Brown said. “Bob and everyone involved running these events are volunteers. They do it for the camaraderie and to raise scholarship dollars for students to attend Michigan State.

“(There are) more than 300 (alumni chapters) around the country. (Ours) isn’t the biggest club as far as numbers, but it has the biggest heart.”

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