Missoula Sentinel bargain sets dangerous precedent

Missoula Sentinel bargain sets dangerous precedent

Standing on the sideline of a Dillon Beavers football game on Friday night, legendary coach and philosopher Tedd Stanisich laughed off the ridiculous notion that head coach Terry Thomas recruited players to go to Beaverhead County High School.

At issue were Dillon’s superstar Folsom brothers, Monte and Ben. The Folsom family was relatively new to Dillon, but not the general area.

The word “recruiting” was brought up because Monte and Ben’s older brother J.D. was on an NFL roster while Monte and Ben were playing for the Beavers.

J.D. Folsom played high school football in Salmon, Idaho. He starred at linebacker at Weber State before being selected in the seventh round of the 2009 NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins.

He also had stints with Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Arizona Cardinals during his brief NFL career.

At the time they moved to Dillon, some thought young Monte and Ben had an even higher football upside than their older brother.

Monte and Ben Folsom both went on to play football for the Montana State Bobcats, but not before helping the Beavers add to their long list of Class A state championships.

Certain opposing coaches and fans were not happy to see the Folsom brothers play for the Beavers, and recruiting allegations were hinted at, if not directly made to the Montana High School Association.

Had the allegations made it to a hearing, the MHSA, presumably, would have laughed off any complaint since the Folsom’s parents lived and worked in the county.

Coach Thomas is not Pete Bell. He does not have the power or influence to secure jobs, housing and transportation for families with stud athletes to move to Dillon.

Still, some people claimed he did.

Someone, probably me, made a joke about the allegations on the Dillon sideline during warmups one Friday night.

“That’s (B.S.),” Stanisich said. “That car Terry bought them wasn’t even new. Sure, it was nice. But it wasn’t new.”

Stanisich, of course, was joking. I assume.

About the car, not how new it was.

The Beavers did not need to buy a car for any players because they were already a Class A dynasty. The Folsom brothers moving to town was just icing on the championship cake. Or cakes.

If any players were worth buying a car for, though, it was Monte and Ben Folsom. They were absolute beasts on the football field and perfect gentlemen off of it.

A newer-model vehicle for the pair would have been the steal of the century.

Missoula Sentinel now finds itself in the middle of a recruiting scandal, and the Spartans really did get a super bargain.

Unlike with the Beavers, there apparently was something to the allegations made against the Spartans because Sentinel was found to be in violation of the MHSA’s recruiting rule last week.

MHSA Executive Director Mark Beckman said that the organization did not find any wrong doing in the case of the student-athlete in question. He will not lose any athletic eligibility or be punished in any way.

While the MHSA did not mention any names, the case is believed to involve former Flint Creek star Jaxon Lee, who transferred from Philipsburg to Missoula Sentinel. He will play for the Spartans as a senior next fall.

Lee, who told the media he transferred for academic and social reasons, apparently also considered transferring to Butte before deciding on Missoula.

That will sting any Bulldog fan who got the chance to see Lee shine when Naranche Stadium hosted the Class C 8-man championship game last November.

If any player is worth paying for, it is Lee. He is a bona fide superstar.

We got a chance to see that first hand when Lee ran for 246 yards and three touchdowns on just 18 carries in Flint Creek’s 50-14 win over Great Falls Central in the storied Butte stadium.

Lee also caught a touchdown pass in the win. He returned a kick 57 yards to set up another score.

The performance by Lee, already armed with a scholarship offer from Montana State, was perhaps the best I have seen by a Montana High School player since watching the Great Chase Reynolds dominate for the Drummond Trojans.

The price Sentinel will pay for the right to have Lee rack up touchdowns for the Spartans next year is a $100 fine. The school’s administration is also required to send a letter to inform the MHS what they will do in the future to avoid being in violation of the same rule.

Can you believe that bargain?

Getting Jaxon Lee for $100 is the steal of the century. Every high football coach in the state would happily pay that in a heartbeat.

Recruiting has not been a major problem in Montana. In fact, Beckman said he can only remember two recruiting hearings in his 22 years with the MHSA.

With such a light punishment for gaining such a great player, though, just might change. You better believe some coaches with $100 to spare are already starting to scratch their heads.

It reminds me of the time when former Butte Central boys’ basketball coach Bill “Chunky” Thatcher was fined $100 after an incident with an official in Livingston.

Late in the game, Thatcher sent in reserve player Scott Mansanti to guard the referee, whom Thatcher thought was really sticking it to the Maroons in the game in the 1990s.

“Hey Guido,” Thatcher said. “Go in and guard the ref.”

Mansanti jumped off the bench and said, “OK,” as if it was a perfectly normal directive from the coach. He got in a nice defensive stance and followed the official, who blew his whistle for a technical foul once he realized what Mansanti was doing.

Thatcher was eventually fined $100 by the MHSA. It is unclear if the fine was for instructing his player to guard the referee or if it was for his hilarious comments in The Montana Standard about the incident.

Among other things, Thatcher said something like, “I told him to guard the guy who was hurting us the most.”

Either way, the fine was not a deterrent to Thatcher.

As legend has it — and I believe that legend — the coach laid out ten $100 bills on the counter at the MHSA office and said, “Here’s $1,000. I’ll do it again.”

Thatcher was gladly willing to part with $1,000 as a way to vent about some calls he still maintains were horrible. Imagine how much some coaches or boosters will be willing to pony up for the chance to poach some of the top players from other schools around the state.

One coach told me he would have paid $1,000 in fines for a chance to land Butte Central’s Cade Holter or one the Simkins twins, Matt and Jared, on his basketball team.

If he could have gotten all three, he probably would have handed over the keys to his vehicle.

It is a pretty nice car, but it isn’t new.

— Bill Foley, who is not alone in wishing Butte High would have outbid Missoula Sentinel, writes a column that appears Tuesdays on ButteSports.com. Email him at foley@buttesports.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74.

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