Coaching staff hires show Cats got it right with Choate

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:

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 on Tuesdays. Email him at Follow him at 11 comments

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  • Jeff Malby
    December 22, 2015, 5:54 am

    Great job Bill. You nailed it.

  • John Kovacich
    December 22, 2015, 8:33 am

    Here we go again msu football new coaching hires will get it right??? Same song different verse, hence:

    Gilbertson (ok won chipper, however, never beat the Griz after that ~ The start of Don Read’s 18 years in a row of beating the cats ~ fired”!!

    Coach from N Dakota hell nobody remembers him 0 wins against Griz ~ fired!!!

    Coach Hysell (good guy, good coach) I think you wrote the same article you wrote today when they hired Cliff ~ 0 wins against the Griz ~ Fired!!!

    “The Big Human” Coach Kramer (good guy, good coach) again you just may have written the same article as you did today when Mike got hired ~ He did beat the Griz twice, snapped the 18 year Griz win streak, however, losing record against the Griz ~ unfairly fired!!

    Rob Ash again a good person, good coach, very successful, unfairly fired without question ~ however, 2-7 against the Griz and never beat the Griz in Bozeman ~ fired!!

    So now MSU once again will try to get it right with Coach Choate who without question is a very good hire he also has hired a good staff I congratulate MSU for there hire ~ Time will tell for this new regime.

    Coach Stitt and his staff also recruit, and they are pretty damn good at it in “Montana” and the else where!!

    FYI: Record the last 30 years: Griz 25 wins ~ MSU 5 wins


    • Eric O@John Kovacich
      December 22, 2015, 8:55 am

      @John Kovacich…Gilbertson? You should maybe know your history before trying to give a history lesson.

      • John Kovacich@Eric O
        December 22, 2015, 9:24 am

        Eric O;

        You are 100% correct ~ I was wrong it was Coach Arnold not Keith Gilbertson ~ I stand corrected!

        Thank you for bring that to my attention,

        Merry Christmas,


  • Bill Foley
    December 22, 2015, 8:56 am

    I was in high school when Cliff Hysell was hired, so I wrote no such thing. I did, however, write about Hysell when Matt Vincent and I made fun of him telling Randy Reilly that he should try the Frontier Conference. Reilly and fellow Butte guy Brian Toone combined for the safety in the Grizzlies’ 22-20 win over Marshall in the 1995 title game.
    And, for the record, the Griz winning streak over the Cats was 16. Read coached in 10 of those games.
    Oh, and just one more thing, it is possible to write something nice about one team without hating the other. Saying the Cats will recruit Montana better now doesn’t mean I think Coach Stitt is abandoning the state.

  • John Kovacich
    December 22, 2015, 9:36 am


    I know you did not write the same articles ~ I was having a little fun with you ~ My bad on the 18 year win streak it was 16 I stand corrected Don Read started the streak and continued on with another one of our Butte gentlemen Mick Dennehy.

    Thank you, Merry Christmas to you and yours,


  • Bill Foley
    December 22, 2015, 9:25 pm

    Real names are required to comment, folks. Especially from Carroll fans.


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