Griz Post Another Strong Semester in the Classroom


Of all the things former Montana football coach Mick Delaney left his successor — a program with a storied tradition and cases full of championship trophies, a passionate and devoted fan base, the promise of two new transformational facilities, a team coming off another trip to the FCS playoffs — one hand-me-down not to be overlooked: The Grizzlies are coming off one of their most successful semesters ever.

The Montana football team had a GPA of 2.87 in the fall, a solid effort for a group of 103 student-athletes whose season began four weeks before the first day of class and ended in early December the weekend before finals.

Forty-eight of those players had semester GPAs of 3.0 or better, 15 made the Dean’s List and two — Derek Crittenden and Logan Hines, both of whom played in all 14 games, the latter as a 13-game starter — had perfect 4.0 GPAs.

The team’s GPA was its third-highest since record-keeping began in the late 90s.

But Bob Stitt and his infectious win-the-day mentality didn’t move up the coaching ladder being okay with being pretty good. Couldn’t that 2.87 be above 3.0? And what about the 10 players with GPAs at 2.0 or below and the three on academic probation?

“It’s very exciting to see that a majority of the team is very serious about academics,” said Stitt, who was hired Dec. 16. “What we want to do now is take what Mick built and eliminate any academic casualties. My goal is to have the entire team be very solid academically.”

People may look at the coach’s 15 years at Colorado School of Mines — a rigorous academic institution devoted to engineering and the sciences, the type of place that gets more than 13,000 applicants for its annual 950-student freshman class — and think Stitt’s philosophy was born there, mostly out of necessity.

In fact it isn’t even an academic philosophy Stitt preaches at all. Or specific to coaching. It’s much more holistic than that. Winners be winners.

“I’ve always had the same philosophy. Whatever you choose to do, you should try to succeed at it,” he says. “And that ties into everything you do. You can’t pick and choose what you want to be good at in life.

“If you go to college, you should put the same amount of effort into everything you do, whether that’s your sport or your schoolwork.”

That program-record 2.92 GPA the Griz football team recorded in the fall of 2012? Hope it was recorded in pencil.

Ten of Montana’s 13 athletic programs had a fall GPA of 3.0 or better, and five had terms higher than 3.4: women’s cross country (3.79), women’s tennis (3.56), women’s golf (3.47), men’s tennis (3.46) and women’s soccer (3.44).

That academic effort gave Montana’s 321 student-athletes a term GPA of 3.09, matching the best semester in the record-keeping era, and a cumulative GPA of 3.11, making it 19 straight semesters for the Grizzlies at 3.0 or better.

The Montana soccer team, with the department’s fourth-largest squad, behind football and the two track and field programs, posted its 21st straight semester with a term GPA of 3.0 or better.

But after back-to-back semesters of 3.51 and 3.44, is 3.0 any longer even a relevant baseline marker of success?

“It’s one of our main focuses when we start recruiting players,” says coach Mark Plakorus. “They know right away that academics is a big priority for our program. I tell every recruit we have that the No. 1 reason they are coming to college is to get a degree and set themselves up for the rest of their lives.”

The Grizzlies, who won their first outright Big Sky Conference regular-season title since 2000 in the fall, go about their academics a little bit differently. Talk about empowering: Plakorus does not set the team’s academic goal. The players do.

“The neat thing for our team is that the players decide what their goal is going to be academically. When you say you’re going to do something and then commit to it, that’s much more powerful than being told what you need to do,” he says, before adding a disappointment-tinged coda that only overachievers will read and nod in understanding.

“Sure, we had a 3.44 in the fall, but our goal was a 3.5.”

Men’s cross country checked in at 3.34 in the fall, women’s basketball at 3.27, women’s track and field at 3.26, softball at 3.04, volleyball at 3.01, men’s track and field at 2.94 and men’s basketball at 2.90.

Montana Sports Information