GRIZ GRIT: UM Football Coaches Do a Thankless Job

By MICK HOLIEN for the Flathead Beacon

Having the reputation of being a glass-half-full guy and one who often operates outside the realm of reality, I’ve never really been concerned about naysayers who choose either to respectively disagree or even malign my point of view.

I sometimes wonder what their motives are to be so disagreeable or opinionated, but, of course, I respect their right to do so.

But now with the Internet observations and criticisms seem to flow from afar as well as next door. And words are readily shared not just on friendly websites and pages but also in unfriendly corners, like those of a team’s future opponents.

At this point, it’s not really surprising that fans of the opposition might take exception to something I have written, but it does surprise me how quickly it happens.

Now since I rarely say anything negative about a college player’s performance, preferring instead to deal with stats and the like, usually it isn’t a parent I hear from, but rather a fan who takes pleasure in pointing out what they believe are my inadequacies.

I am surely fair game and really don’t hear things that much because of anonymity that being a radio guy provides. Although having your picture plastered in numerous places makes be more recognizable than I sometimes prefer.

And generally I don’t take offense when someone starts out with the usual, “Why aren’t the Grizzlies doing this or why are they doing that?”

And usually I am quite patient when the conversation inevitably rolls around to why this guy or that is playing or is not playing or whatever the case may be. Let’s face it: Fans have their favorites and love to cheer for the “other guy.”

What I have greater difficulty understanding is why there is such preoccupation with whether a coach or a staff deserves to be fired.

Granted, University of Montana football has enjoyed such unprecedented success that expectations are beyond reason. If the Grizzlies are not in the midst of the conference title chase, in the top 10 vying for a string of playoff games, or beating opponents by 30, the wheels must be coming off.

And if UM is beating opponents by 30, the opponents or the league are weak and we either should schedule better teams or UM should move up to the next level of competition.

Coaches have some of the most thankless jobs anywhere and their spouses deserve sainthood. Marv Albert’s book title says it all: “I’d Love to, but I’ve Got a Game.”

A coach’s future is dependent on the performance of student-athletes who this season probably were born after the advent of cell phones. They were in elementary school when 9/11 occurred, and I’d been broadcasting games for almost a decade when they were born.

Coaches work tirelessly to succeed and half of them do every week. Although I could argue a team sometimes succeeded if they lost because, after all, it’s all a matter of perspective.

They don’t deserve to get hate mail or have “For Sale” signs posted in their yard for their children to see, but unfortunately there is a segment of the population that acts that way.

I’ve been around for several staff firings, when families are uprooted and kids pulled out of school or, in most cases, Dad leaves for another gig leaving the family behind for the remainder of the school year.

I was asked recently if I thought a certain coach had saved his job by the number of wins he had or if I thought he should be fired in his second season.

I guess my answer failed to do justice to the question, so I was asked again with more specific information, like the number of wins and conference standing added to the equation.

I quickly pointed out that for most of my radio career, except for one five-year gig I negotiated, I have had a one-year Tommy Lasorda-type contract that always left me wondering whether I would perform well enough to be rehired.

I can handle it, but it doesn’t mean I have to enjoy it.

Like this GRIZ GRIT Blog by Voice of the Griz Mick Holien?  Check out his Griz Grit Archive.


Now in his 27th year of broadcasting University of Montana football or basketball games, award winning journalist Mick Holien has a unique and insightful perspective on collegiate athletics.