Supriya Ghosh (Editor)

Montana Grizzlies football

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Athletic director  Kent Haslam
Seating capacity  25,203
Location  Missoula, Montana
Division  Division I (NCAA)
First season  1897
Field  John Hoyt Field
Field surface  FieldTurf
Head coach  Bob Stitt
Conference  Big Sky Conference
Colors  Maroon, Silver
Montana Grizzlies football httpssmediacacheak0pinimgcomoriginalsc8
Year built  1986; 31 years ago (1986)
Arena/Stadium  Washington–Grizzly Stadium
Rivals  Idaho State Bengals football, Eastern Washington Eagles football

The Montana Grizzlies football program (or "Griz") represents the University of Montana in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) of college football. The Grizzlies have competed in the Big Sky Conference, where it is a founding member, since 1963. They play their home games on campus in Missoula at Washington-Grizzly Stadium, where they had an average attendance of 24,380 in 2013 (2nd in FCS).


The Grizzlies had a winning season from 1986–2011. In Washington-Grizzly Stadium they have a winning percentage of .890 including playoffs. They hold the records for most playoff appearances in a row (17), Big Sky Conference titles in a row (12), and overall playoff appearances (19). Their success made them the most successful program in all college football in the 2000s (119 wins) and third most successful team in FCS in the 1990s (93 wins).

Early years (1897–1934)

The University of Montana's first football season was in 1897 where they won a single game against future rival Montana State. The team played only schools from Montana until it helped found the Northwest Intercollegiate Athletic Association (NWIAA) in 1902. In addition to Montana, this original Northwest Conference included Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, Idaho, and Whitman College. Despite the association's stated goal of increasing intercollegiate athletics, Montana continued to play only the nearest teams. More unfortunate for the team, it would not win a game against a conference opponent until a 10-0 win over Washington State in 1914.

In 1915, the Northwest Conference began to become superfluous with the creation of the Pacific Coast Conference which by 1924 already included the five public Northwest Conference schools from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho in addition to California and Stanford. Montana joined the conference in 1924 and remained through the 1949 season. Montana won only nine conferences games (8–16 against rival Idaho), and never played a home game against a team from the state of California.

No team was organized in 1918, due to World War I and the 1918 flu pandemic.

Doug Fessenden era (1935–1948)

(46-40-4) Record, (9-1) vs. Cats
Doug Fessenden was the first Montana coach to last more than five years and was the first to end his career with a winning record that coached more than two years.

The program was on hiatus for the 1943 and 1944 seasons, due to World War II. Of the six teams in the northern division of the PCC, only Washington continued through the war.

Mountain States (Skyline) Conference era (1951–1961)

In 1948, the Montana board of education announced that it was de-emphasizing athletics at the state university. Key to the university's decision was the feeling that continued affiliation with the conference was incompatible with the goal to "keep intercollegiate athletics properly subordinated to the academic function" and they would "seek to develop competition in all sports with institutions similar in purpose, size, resources and academic standing." The conference was only "preferable to having no conference affiliation."

In 1951, Montana joined the Mountain States Conference, popularly known as the Skyline Conference. It would compete here until the conference dissolved in 1962, never having a winning season and not winning more than three games until 1960. In 1963, Montana joined Gonzaga, Idaho, Idaho State, Weber State, and Montana State in forming the Big Sky Conference. (Gonzaga dropped its football program in 1941 and Idaho did not compete in conference play until 1965.)

Jack Swarthout era (1967–1975)

(51-41-1) Record, (3-6) vs. Cats
Montana's football struggles continued in the new Big Sky Conference, and the team had only won nine games its first four years when school officials decided that coaching change was needed. Following a 1–9 season in 1966, University of Montana president Robert T. Pantzer announced in December the hiring of Jack Swarthout, a former quarterback/halfback/end from Montana. Swarthout brought on Jack Elway as an assistant and they improved the team immediately to 7–3 in their first season. Within two years, Swarthout guided the team to back-to-back undefeated regular seasons in 1969 and 1970 and Montana's first Big Sky Conference titles. Both years they were defeated by the North Dakota State in the Camellia Bowl, which was part of a set of bowls that led up to a poll to determine the NCAA College Division national championship, prior to the current College Division playoff structure.

Continued success was expected, but a disappointing season in 1971 was followed by a work-study scandal that eventually led to Swarthout's resignation. In 1972, a federal grand jury returned a 32-count indictment charging five university officials and coaches (including Swarthout) with conspiring to illegally use federal-aid money by using some of the funds to pay for fictitious jobs for athletes. Though Swarthout was found innocent, the charges hurt recruiting and the student-body government decided to withdraw financial support for athletic programs. Despite the controversy and resultant performance decline, Swarthout is credited as being the coach that turned Montana into a winning football program.

Don Read era (1986–1995)

(85-36) Record, (10-0) vs. Cats
After Swarthout's departure, Montana would register only one winning season over the next 10 years. In November 1985, Montana fired coach Larry Donovan and replaced him with Portland State's head coach, Don Read. Over the next 10 years Montana would go 85-36, have 10 straight winning seasons, and was undefeated against cross-state rival Montana State. Read would win 2 conference titles, make the playoffs 5 times and win Montana's first national championship.

Mick Dennehy era (1996–1999)

(39–12) record, (4–0) vs. Cats
Mick Dennehy had been the offensive coordinator under Don Read and was promoted to head coach when Read retired in 1995. Dennehy continued Montana's success, making it to the national championship in his first year for a rematch against Marshall University. This time however, Montana lost 49–29. Montana made the playoffs every year under Dennehy and continued to beat Montana State, but they did not make it past the first round of the playoffs outside his first season. After the 1999 season, Dennehy accepted a head coaching position at Utah State.

Joe Glenn era (2000–2002)

(39-6) Record, (2-1) vs. Cats
The Joe Glenn era began with high hopes for the winner of two Division II champions at the University of Northern Colorado. He did not disappoint, making it to the national championship his first two seasons, winning the second. Unfortunately, during Glenn's third year Montana's win streak against Montana State finally came to end at 16 straight. Glenn left after the 2002 season to pursue the head coaching job at the University of Wyoming

Bobby Hauck era (2003–2009)

(80-17) Record, (5-2) vs. Cats
Bobby Hauck began his tenure in 2003 and over the next 7 years would win a share of the Big Sky Conference title every year and make it to the national championship in 2004(lost to JMU), 2008(lost to the University of Richmond), and 2009(Lost to Villanova University. Unfortunately, Montana would win none of those. After the 2009 season Hauck left to take the head coaching job at UNLV.

Robin Pflugrad era (2010–2011)

(13-7) Record, (1-1) vs. Cats
In 2009, Robin Pflugrad returned to Montana to become the wide receivers coach under Bobby Hauck. After that season, Hauck left Montana to become the head coach at UNLV, and Pflugrad was promoted to replace him. Pflugrad said after his hiring that Montana would be "very fast on offense, up-tempo and upbeat." Pflugrad led Montana to a Big Sky Conference title and a national semifinal appearance in 2011, but those were vacated by the NCAA on July 26, 2013 due to infractions which included a nationally publicized rape scandal. Individually, Pflugrad was hit with numerous sanctions by the NCAA for his part in the infractions.

Mick Delaney era (2012–2014)

(24-14) Record, (2-1) vs. Cats
Mick Delaney was hired July 26, 2012, replacing former head coach Robin Pflugrad. On July 26, 2013 the NCAA found the Montana football program guilty of multiple major infractions and one secondary infraction. None of these infractions occurred while Delaney was the head coach. Delaney retired after three seasons.

Bob Stitt era (2015–present)

(10-5) Record, (1-1) vs. Cats
It was announced on December 16, 2014 Bob Stitt would be replacing former head coach Mick Delaney after he announced his retirement. Bob Stitt started out his tenure at Montana with one of the most memorable games in the history of Griz football with a 38-35 win over the 4-time Defending FCS National Champions North Dakota State with an 80-yard 1:37 scoring drive to end the game.

Home venues

The Montana Grizzlies have played their home games in Washington–Grizzly Stadium since its construction in 1986. The stadium has an official capacity of 25,203, however, its record attendance is 26,066 set September 17, 2011. Construction of the stadium closely follows the Grizzlies recent success and since its construction the Grizzlies have a 163-21 win record (2010).

Before Washington-Grizzly Stadium, the Grizzlies played off-campus at "new" Dornblaser Field from 1968 to 1986. Prior to 1968, Montana played on-campus at "old" Dornblaser Field from 1920 to 1967. Both stadiums were named for Paul Dornblaser, the team's captain in 1912, who was killed in World War I. Prior to 1920, Montana played its home games at a field in downtown Missoula, near the former Missoulian newspaper building.

Montana State Bobcats

Montana's primary rivalry is the Brawl of the Wild (AKA: The Cat – Griz game) against Montana State University in Bozeman, played 115 times, which the Griz leads 72-37-5.

The series has three distinct periods. From 1897 to 1916 the teams didn't belong to a conference and at times would play twice per year. Early seasons had seven games or less with one season seeing the Grizzlies play just one game. Four of the five ties in the series came during this era. Montana won 12 games to Montana State's 7.

In 1917 Montana State joined the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference and in 1924 Montana joined what is now the Pac-12 Conference when it entered the Pacific Coast Conference. The RMAC included several teams that would become Mountain West members. When MSU joined the RMAC included Colorado, Colorado State, Utah, Utah State, and Brigham Young. When UM joined the PCC included Stanford, California, UCLA, USC, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington, Washington State, and Idaho. The Bobcats remained in the RMAC through 1956, while the Grizzlies remained in the PCC through 1949 and joined the Mountain States Conference from 1951–1961. MSU was independent from 1957–1962 and UM was independent in 1950 and 1962. During this period UM enjoyed a 30-8-1 edge in Cat-Griz games.

Both schools entered the Big Sky Conference as charter members in 1963 with Montana holding a 42-15-2 series lead. From 1963 to 1985 Montana State enjoyed its most successful period of the Cat-Griz rivalry. MSU won 17 games to just six for UM. Following that Montana started "The Streak" when it won 16 straight games from 1986 to 2001. The Big Sky era shows Montana with a 30-22 lead.

  • Montana was penalized by the NCAA on July 26, 2013 and forced to vacate its last five wins of the 2011 season. One win was against Montana State.
  • Idaho Vandals

    Montana formerly played a rivalry game against the Idaho Vandals for the Little Brown Stein. The Grizzlies trail in the 84-game series 27-55-2 (.333), but have won the last four meetings (2000–03). (Idaho moved up to Division I-A (now FBS) in 1996.)

    The Montana-Idaho rivalry will resume during the 2018 season when Idaho returns to the Big Sky Conference as a full member.

    Eastern Washington Eagles

    The Grizzlies also have an annual rivalry game in conference with the Eastern Washington Eagles, called the EWU–UM Governors Cup. Montana leads the series 26-15-1

    Possible FBS membership

    On November 10, 2010, the Western Athletic Conference announced that it would be expanding its membership by adding three teams, UTSA, Texas State University, and the University of Denver. It was reported that the WAC also extended an invitation to Montana, but the university decided to decline.


  • Maroon & Silver             (1893–1967, 1997–present)
  • Copper & Gold               (1968–1996)
  • The official school colors of the University of Montana are copper, silver, and gold; chosen in recognition of the state's mining history. Contrary to popular perception, these colors have never changed, with the confusion stemming from the university's decision to represent "copper" with either maroon      or "Texas orange"      at various times in its history.

    When the university was founded in 1893 and its colors chosen, a lack of copper dye led the school to use maroon, and occasionally other colors, to represent copper. This had the effect of having the school's athletic teams not always being represented across the board by the same uniform colors. In 1967, head football coach and athletic director Jack Swarthout, who personally preferred the maroon and silver used by the football team, sought to make the schools colors more consistent and held a vote among UM coaches. They selected Texas orange (burnt orange to represent copper) and yellow gold to be used on the school's uniforms and it remained for the next 30 years.

    The maroon was brought back in 1993 as part of the university's centennial celebrations and a student survey in 1995 showed support for a return to maroon and silver uniforms. Despite some vocal opposition, by 1997 the colors began to phase into the maroon and silver that continues to be used.

    #37 Jersey

    The #37 Jersey is a tradition began in 1987 by then running back Kraig Paulson. The tradition holds that whomever wears the #37 jersey selects an in-state recruit and leading defensive player to wear it next.

    Program achievements

    The Grizzlies rank among the all time playoff appearance leaders, with appearances in 1982, 1988, 1989, and 1993–2009. The Grizzlies playoff streak of 17 in a row from 1993–2009 is a record at the I-AA level, now known as the NCAA Division I Championship Subdivision. The streak came to an end on November 21, 2010 when the Grizzlies were not selected to the FCS playoffs following a loss to in-state rival Montana State.

  • Montana was penalized by the NCAA on July 26, 2013 and forced to vacate its last five wins of the 2011 season, its conference championship and its recognition for appearing in the FCS playoffs.
  • The Grizzlies won the national championship in 1995 under Don Read when Dave Dickenson led the team to a victory over Marshall University in the national championship game. In 2001, coach Joe Glenn led the Montana Grizzlies to another national championship defeating Furman University by a score of 13-6.

    The Grizzlies rank third in the state in National Football Championships, although they are fourth in Division I-AA (FCS) National Championships with two. They fall behind the Carroll College from Helena, Montana and the Montana State Bobcats. The Saints have won six NAIA Football Championships while the Montana State Bobcats have won three national titles, although they only have one title as a Division I-AA (FCS) school.

    Conference championships

  • Montana was penalized by the NCAA on July 26, 2013 and forced to vacate its last five wins of the 2011 season, its conference championship and its recognition of appearing in the FCS playoffs.
  • Division I-AA/FCS Playoffs results

    The Grizzlies have appeared in the I-AA/FCS playoffs 24 times with a record of 34–22. However, their 2011 appearance has been vacated making their official playoff record 31–20 in 23 appearances. They were National Champions in 1995 and 2001 and National Runner–Up in 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2009.

    * Appearance and record vacated

    Other awards and honors

  • Grizzlies quarterback Bob O'Billovich was selected as the Montana Athlete of Decade (1960–1970)
  • Head coaching history

  • Montana was penalized by the NCAA on July 26, 2013 and forced to vacate its last five wins of the 2011 season. One win was against Montana State. It was also forced to vacate its conference title and appearance in the 2011 FCS playoffs.
  • Yearly season records

  • Montana was penalized by the NCAA on July 26, 2013 and forced to vacate its last five wins of the 2011 season. One win was against Montana State. It was also forced to vacate its conference title and appearance in the 2011 FCS playoffs.
  • References

    Montana Grizzlies football Wikipedia

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