The business of football was and is always a cruel one. Today that business got more cruel. Montana fired a football coach, fans abroad cheered, and I became a bit more hardened in my heart. For today, a man was fired for being good at his job.
His problem? He wasn’t great. Coaching is a hard sport to be in, because all the good advice you get rarely prepares you for those handful of people you can’t please. What Bob Stitt didn’t know when taking the job, he was going to walk into a stadium chalk full of people he couldn’t please. Constant pining for the next great quarterback. The next national championship.
I remember all of those days in as I listened to people joke about the obsessives in the Grizzly fanbase. Just laughed. Sending Tony Moss, Craig Haley and others hate mail for picking against the Griz. Started to believe it a bit more when I heard it in the crowd during the Dennehy tenure, more so when Drew Miller limped off the field, the numerous throngs of Hauck haters. The cacophony negative nellies only grew larger and more emboldened after Pflugrad was let go.
Coaches don’t sign up for a job that treats them as some piece of replaceable merchandise. They don’t sign up to receive all sorts of hate mail. Verbal abuse from fans, boosters and parents. They sacrifice a great amount, in order to provide a product in the best way they know how. Only to be continuously second guessed by a bunch of drunk know-it-alls who can’t find their way in after half time.
Am I frustrated and angry that it came to this in Missoula? Sure as hell I am. Kent Haslam can say he wants to get the toughness back into Grizzly football. As fans applauded that, do they have the slightest clue what it looks like? I think there are a number of Grizzly football players who might have taken umbrage with that statement. The Gresch Jensen’s, Justin Strong’s and Josh Sandry’s who played multiple games with injuries. To win games for their teammates, their coaches and the fans that support them.
I have been a supporter through thick and thin of the University of Montana football program. As long as we continue to chase ghosts, to chase the past, no one is ever going to be good enough. Hell Bobby Hauck wasn’t good enough. If we bring Hauck back, there is no guarantee that he’ll be as good as he was before.
So you can offer your platitudes to the coaches and their families. But they knew what they were getting into. Bullshit. I have experienced this twice in my life. Happened nearly the same way. You can’t prepare for this ever. What is worse is that people, even in administration, are never fully honest with you. They can’t. You can’t fight back. There is no point. So you are generous, while at the same time you are angry and on the verge of tears.
If Skyline’s reporting is correct, and I don’t have a reason to believe that it isn’t, then it makes our program and the athletic department look pretty small and petty. The optics are bad. The luster is gone from the program, and Stitt wasn’t responsible for that.
Stitt obviously put himself into this position by not winning enough. He didn’t put the program into the stratosphere quick enough. The adage is, if you didn’t do enough to keep your job, then you open yourself up to losing it. This was always a tough job, but it wasn’t unreasonable. Now it is. Montana puts itself in the company of Tennessee, Texas and Florida. Places where the incessant need to win has forced them into one bad decision after the next. I don’t think think this is a great decision, but time will only tell if my opinion of this transaction is vindicated or not.
That incessant need to win has a cost. In some ways that is how we got here. Coaches who weren’t acceptable in 2015 suddenly are? We had ethics in 2015 and wanted a coach who would lead a program of fine young men. Now? F-it. Lets win. While that is overstatement, I don’t believe that it is far from the truth.
I just hope people can wake up in the morning and look themselves in the mirror. I am not talking about Haslam. Today Grizzly football was defined by those who were timid and weak. I am sorry that Bob Stitt paid the price for that. Just makes me sick to my stomach. There is nothing to celebrate here. Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Best of luck to Coach Stitt, his staff and their families. I can’t help but think they deserved a little better than they got.
Thanks again for reading.