Bailing out the Griz

So, the defense put forth, the reason the NCAA supposedly got part of it wrong was: “They weren’t really boosters?”

An 18-month investigation by the college sports governing body of the University of Montana athletics, particularly football, into alleged wrongdoings focused much on the payment of bail money for a couple of Grizzly players.

A three-year probation in which four football scholarships a year for the penalty duration will be confiscated were among the penalties meted out, it was announced. UM athletic director Jim O’Day and head football coach Robin Pflugrad were both fired in March of 2012 over the monitoring of the football program.

Media word from Pflugrad about the bail money stated that his argument was that the two women who paid the funds were not actual Grizzly football boosters. The NCAA report cited one of the infractions being that boosters bailed out the two players — Trumaine Johnson and Gerald Kemp. Johnson is now with the St. Louis Rams of the National Football League.

The incident that instigated the needing of the bail money was an alleged noisy party at which Kemp and Johnson were present in Missoula. A complaint was made and police responded to the scene. The players and the Missoula law enforcement officers were involved in a type of altercation that ended with the policemen tazing the players and hauling them off to the jail.

Apparently, women acquaintances, at least one of whom was the mother of another UM player, so the account said, put up the money to spring Johnson and Kemp that night. The women were reportedly reimbursed by at least one family member of one of the accused players.

Still, the NCAA decided this kindly gesture constituted an illegal payment by a booster of the UM football program to illegally benefit members of the team. Also, the reimbursement was ruled to have been paid too late, beyond whatever the NCAA imposes as a deadline for such an act.

Maybe it all was illegal and maybe it did wrongly benefit the players. Pflugrad apparently felt that unless the charitable souls were card-carrying members of the Grizzly Athletic Association or some similarly recognized Griz support group, boosters weren’t really involved and so, therefore, no wrong had been committed in this instance.


How about we recruit student/athletes (?) who won’t NEED bail money? What a novel approach, huh?

Is there a checklist for recruiting?

Nutritional diet program
Math tutor
Fitness plan
Grades monitor
Bail provider

We sincerely hope such hasn’t become the case.

I can clearly remember my dad, my buddies’ dads and assorted other relatives, neighbors, etc., telling the guys and me when we were about 15 or 16 years old or so that if we ever got into the kind of trouble that got our butts tossed into the hoosegow, don’t call them. They wouldn’t bail us out. Nope, not even our dads. We get ourselves into that kind of predicament, we sit. Maybe, we’d learn something, too, something that isn’t being taught on college campuses, UM being one, it would seem.

The message was handed to the next generation.

Such treatment isn’t coddling, babying or idolizing, so is apparently a concept foreign to some (certainly not all) championship football players who seem to believe they deserve more than what is defined in their scholarship contracts. They are above the law, they are above us, is the image.

Pflugrad said something to the effect that most people would want someone to be there to help out a young person who was in trouble. If so, we need to examine the degree of trouble, the right and/or the wrong.

Other woes and infractions have been swirling around the UM athletic department with basketball players getting into trouble in Downtown Missoula, as well, including the Missoula police going Syracuse on a couple Griz cagers after a bar fight last spring. Rumors surface about current and former university higher-ups receiving favorable in-Missoula treatment in business and legal matters, on the up-and-up or not, due to preferential access awarded to championship sports programs benefits and surroundings.

Parents have voiced concerns about sending their daughters to UM after the publicity about alleged and proven sex crimes perpetrated against women in school-connected settings, on and off campus.

The University of Montana has a lot of work to do, including in the area of public relations, after it somehow fixes what has become the obvious problems. Mick Delaney, named a bit over a year ago to replace Pflugrad, will right the football ship and with a concentration on personal and program character. Support for that way of life and way of play is what should be shown. Where rumor and innuendo has been given life by truth and proof, negativity thrives.

The situation is troubling. Extending some of the fewer football scholarship monies still available to instate hopefuls might be a gesture soured state supporters can appreciate, but simply maybe having to relinquish some talent potential for all-star citizenship would be better received.

At the very least, when or if any of our state’s college athletes land in the old iron-bar hotel, we should let them sit.

That message just might be loud enough.

Posts Carousel

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Archived Radio Broadcasts

Print this Page

Print Friendly, PDF & Email