Gianfortes not the biggest Alumni controversy

Several football seasons ago — back when Montana Tech still played on grass — the Orediggers lost what I call the “Nick Milodragovich Game” at Alumni Coliseum.

Late in the game, Milodragovich, a Carroll College great who has roots in the Mining City, went back to return a punt.

The Orediggers thought he signaled for a fair catch, which would have stopped the play where he caught the ball. Tech players clearly slowed up thinking this was the case.

Milodragovich, though, didn’t call fair catch — at least not on purpose. Maybe he held his arm up briefly to block the sun. It’s hard to say what happened for sure because Tech’s game film was inconclusive.

Either way, the officials didn’t register a fair catch, and the Saints star caught many — including myself — off guard when he ran with the ball for a big return that set up Carroll’s game-winning touchdown.

That game, and in particular that play, caused a big controversy at Alumni Coliseum.

More than a decade earlier, in 1993, the same two teams met in a night game at Alumni. The Saints had the ball a couple of inches away from the Oredigger goal line late in the game. It was the same north end zone Milodragovich raced toward.

A defensive player by the name of Matt Vincent — yes, that Matt Vincent — jumped off sides, and the officials penalized the Orediggers half the distance to the goal, which was almost immeasurable.

So, Vincent smiled and jump off sides again. Then again.

The officials got together briefly before finally signaling a touchdown for the Saints, a crucial score in Carroll’s win.

I can still hear Tech coach Bob Green repeatedly yelling “That! Is! Not! A! Rule!” during the game that was also very much a major controversy at Alumni Coliseum.

On May 17, Montana Tech’s 2014 graduation ceremony will be held, weather permitting, on the synthetic grass of Bob Green Field in Alumni Coliseum.

Bozeman billionaires Greg and Susan Gianforte will give the commencement speech that day, and that has become a very big controversy.

It shouldn’t, however, be a debate anywhere close to as intense as those games between the Orediggers and Saints.

The Gianfortes apparently believe the Earth is only about 6,000 years old. They backed up that belief by making a major contribution to the faith-based Glendive Dinosaur Fossil Museum, which teaches that humans co-existed with dinosaurs.

True story. Humans and dinosaurs used to get together to watch football games on DirecTV.

The Gianfortes are apparently also not very big fans of the gay and lesbian community. In fact, they have been outspoken against efforts for a non-discrimination ordinance in Bozeman.

This leads me to believe that the Gianfortes are not the kind of people I would want to have over for Thanksgiving dinner.

The billionaires, though, are clearly very, very good at business. What they have to say could and probably will be highly valuable to the Montana Tech graduates.

While ignoring a petition to have the Gianfortes uninvited from the commencement ceremony, Tech Chancellor Don Blackketter said religious beliefs should not be a litmus test for commencement speakers.

He is absolutely right. Do we really want to live in a society where religious beliefs have to be OK’d before someone is allowed to give something as forgettable as a commencement address?

You know who spoke at my graduation from the University of Montana? If you do, you got me beat because I don’t remember.

Do you remember who spoke or what was said at your graduation? Probably not.

By protesting the views of the Gianfortes, those who objected only made the views they objected to more powerful. Ignoring them would have been a better way to go.

When hearing that Montana Tech, a science school, invited speakers who think the Earth is just 6,000 years old, the proper response should not be outrage. It should be laughter.

It should have given you the same response had you heard that outspoken atheist Ricky Gervais was going to speak at Carroll College, a Catholic institution.

Seriously, selecting the Gianfortes wasn’t the best public relations move by the Chancellor, who, let’s face it, hasn’t had a very good public relations semester.

He probably could have avoided this so-called controversy by inviting another qualified speaker whose view on the planet can’t quickly be proven wrong by nearly everyone in the audience.

Of course, this is the same Chancellor who fired athletic director Charles Bradley — the most prominent African American man on campus since Kelvin Sampson coached the men’s basketball team three decades earlier — on the Saturday before Marin Luther King Jr. Day.

That tells us that Mr. Blackketter might be a good Chancellor, but he is not a great politician or a public relations guru.

Having someone who believes the earth is only 6,000 years old speak to students who have thoroughly studied the Earth is kind of like having Mama Boucher give a pre-game talk to the Orediggers before they take the football field against the Saints.

“Foos-ball? Buncha overgrown monsters man-handlin’ each other… ‘Member when dat man wanted you to play foos-ball, Bobby?”

Of course, Mama Boucher would probably have what they call “the social skills” not to mention her extreme views when firing up the Orediggers.

Likewise, the Gianfortes will probably have the same sense when giving the new Oredigger graduates a pep talk as they enter the “real world.”

So, unless one of the Gianfortes calls for a fair catch and then runs for a touchdown, the commencement talk really won’t be that big of a deal.

—Bill Foley, who on second thought cordially invites the Gianfortes to his house for Thanksgiving this year, writes a column that appears on on Tuesdays. Email him at Follow him at

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