Validation: Montana Grizzlies in Round 2 FCS Playoffs

By MICK HOLIEN for the Flathead Beacon

Everybody loves a winner, don’t they?

I fondly remember the first time in my tenure when the Grizzlies defeated a ranked team when they upset Northern Iowa early in Don Read’s coaching years.

Montana football had turned the corner and was enjoying a winning season, but that was a statement game for Read and his staff and it wasn’t too many years before they were crowned National Champions.

I was spinning discs, actually carted music, on Sundays at the time at KGVO. I got a wild hair to run down Read and get a live reaction.

So I paged “Papa Bear” in the Minneapolis Airport and to my surprise he picked up the phone and I carried the surprising interview live on the air.

As I remember from so many years ago, we talked about what I now describe as validation for what he and his staff were trying to accomplish in turning the Grizzlies into a respectable football program.

Remember, while Don Read was highly respected in his profession, he did not have a winning record when he was hired at the University of Montana to replace Larry Donovan.

But he arrived in Missoula at a time when a new football stadium was just under construction and winning more games than you lost, in a basketball town, was the sign of a successful season.

A member of that first staff was current Griz Head Coach Robin Pflugrad. Years later, I continue to consider the majority of the staff, including such people as Tommy Lee, Jerome Souers, Mick Dennehy, Bob Beers, Bill Smith, and a litany of others, as dear friends.  Most have been, or continue to be, head coaches.

But about validation? That is what occurred in Bozeman.

It also has occurred many times during this football season.

Validation that first Jim O’Day and Pflugrad have hired the right coaches for the job. They’ve maintained the highest academic standards and graduation rate even while continuing to compete for conference and national superiority. They have also attracted student-athletes that mostly strive to be solid citizens in addition to being superior athletes.

When you acquire your first head coaching position, or for that matter become the boss of anything, there are going to be growing pains. And when you implement your plan, it is necessary to have the right pieces in the right places in order to be successful.

Even for Don Read that didn’t happen overnight.

But after starting at 2-2, then running the league table and claiming the automatic bid by beating the No. 2 Bobcat team on their home turf, Pflugrad’s methods have been validated.

And now being nominated as a candidate for National FCS Coach of the Year, the Eddie Robinson Award, Pflugrad, in the words of John Wooden in his Pyramid of Success, has been “at his best when his best was needed.”

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

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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 collegiateathletics.