A few weeks ago, I wrote about the need for Montana State University to hire former University of Montana head football coach Bobby Hauck.
The Bobcats, after all, took a major risk in firing the classy, successful Rob Ash, and the school needs the replacement hiring to be a home run so the move does not go down as the worst MSU personnel decision since former athletic director Tom Parac fired Sonny Lubick in 1981.
I don’t have to remind you that Colorado State now plays on Sonny Lubick Field.
Fortunately, current AD Peter Fields didn’t make any disparaging comments about Ash having too many Butte guys on the team like Parac did in ’81.
When the Bobcats hired Jeff Choate, a former Montana Western Bulldog, on Dec. 4, MSU apparently got it right. I make that claim based on the coaching staff he has assembled because, like most of us, I could not have picked Choate out of a police lineup in November.
Hiring Hauck would have been a slap in the face of the Montana Grizzlies, the Bobcats’ biggest rivals. It also would have put a damper on Christmas for Grizzly fans, whether they would have admitted it or not.
However, Choate fired an insult shot across the bow of Griz Nation when he lured away Ty Gregorak to take over the Bobcat defense.
Gregorak was the popular defensive coordinator for the Grizzlies, and his move 200 miles east on I-90 is going to sting.
Oh, Griz fans might not admit it, but this one is going to really hurt. And it is going to add fuel to what is already a heated rivalry.
Actually, hiring Gregorak as the DC probably will sting more than hiring Hauck because Grizzly fans famously never liked Hauck, even though he did nothing but win in Missoula. Griz fans always liked Gregorak, whose personality makes it impossible to dislike the coach.
Five years ago in Butte, we saw firsthand how Grizzly fans felt about Gregorak when the coach was a finalist for the head job with the Montana Tech football team.
Griz fans, a few acting like cheerleaders, packed a meeting room at Tech to support the coach during his candidate forum. There were hugs, tears and lots and lots of cheers for the coach.
Gregorak needed the support because many at the school were apprehensive of selecting Gregorak because of his “Hangover” incident in which he awoke from a blackout to find he had a handgun and a stranger’s wallet in his hotel room.
Jaison Carriger, a former Grizzly, was one of several supporters to stand up and give a passionate plea for the coach. It was clear that Carriger, and guys like him, would lie down on the street for Gregorak, who is known as a great motivator and a players’ coach.
Check out this tweet from former Grizzly and current Seattle Seahawk Brock Coyle said on Twitter after news broke of Gregorak’s defection to Bozeman:
I will always support Ty Gregorak. He is a great coach and even better man. Made my time at Montana special. Happy for him and his family.
— Brock Coyle (@BrockCoyle56) December 14, 2015
If you poll former Grizzly players who served under Gregorak, you would hear the same thing again and again.
Long before his interview at Tech, all the charges filed against Gregorak were dismissed. Still, the Orediggers opted to hire Chuck Morrell as their coach, a move that, in the end, worked out well for both Morrell and Gregorak.
Gregorak got his second chance with the Griz, and Morrell won two Frontier Conference titles at Tech.
The hiring of Gregorak alone should give Bobcat fans reason for hope. It has the double benefit of being a huge loss for the Griz. If nothing else, it should give Cats fans reason to jab at Griz fans throughout the long off-season.
What I like even more, though, are the additions of Brian Armstrong and B.J. Robertson to the Bobcat staff.
Armstrong left his job as the head coach at Rocky Mountain College to coach the offensive line at Montana State.
Robertson is stepping down as head coach at Montana Western to, among other things, help the Bobcats win the in-state recruiting battle.
Now the Bobcat coaching staff includes two of the top head coaches in the Frontier Conference, which has been called the SEC of the NAIA. Except the Frontier is not grossly overrated like the SEC.
That Armstrong and Robertson, who are also Montana Western grads, will leave a huge hole in the Frontier Conference – not just with their former programs – shows the magnitude of the additions for Choate’s staff.
Physically, Armstrong isn’t close to the biggest addition, but his hiring might have the biggest impact for the Bobcats, who are about to put the “Montana” back in Montana State.
That is where the real bad news comes for the Grizzlies because nobody recruits Montana better than Robertson. Nobody.
It’s also bad news for the teams in the Frontier Conference because the Bobcats will be a stronger competitor for the local athletes.
You just have to take one quick peak at the Bulldog roster to see Robertson has a knack for landing Montana talent. Including redshirts, the 2015 Montana Western football roster included 86 players from the Treasure State.
Not long ago, the Bulldogs had almost as many players from Hawaii as they did from Montana.
Montana Tech, which used to always lead in the Montanan category, has 62 players on the Oredigger roster. Not bad.
Those Montana kids on the Western roster helped the Bulldogs go 7-3 in Robertson’s third year in town. The Bulldogs came within an eyelash of winning the Frontier Conference title, and the team was absolutely robbed when it was left out of the playoffs.
Robertson’s tenure in Dillon lasted just three seasons, but without question the coach left the program better than it was when he took over.
Not too long ago, restaurants and bars in Dillon would rather the football players stay away because the trouble that sometimes followed.
Now, the town is about as crazy about the Dawgs as it is the Dillon Beavers.
Robertson also has no problem recruiting student-athletes from Butte. Two years ago, Robertson signed one Butte Central Maroon. Last year he signed two Maroons and a Butte High Bulldog.
This year he already signed one Maroon, and he might sign a few more before he officially leaves Western. Who knows? Maybe he’ll take one of those Butte players with him to MSU instead. Parac might not agree, but that would be a nice addition to the one Butte guy, Mr. Marcus Ferriter, the Bobcats currently have on the roster.
Right now, it is really hard to dislike the direction the Bobcats are heading in, even if Ash was doing so many right things in Bozeman in the first place.
Still, you have to admit that Bobby Hauck would have been a whole lot of fun.
— Bill Foley, who has also experienced a few ‘Hangover’ incidents, writes a column that appears on ButteSports.com on Tuesdays. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74. 11 comments