Montana State University fans once had big chips on their shoulders – partially caused by the 16 straight years they watched their team lose to its cross-state rival. But, in recent years, those chips have lightened. The Bobcats now have a formidable football team. Just last season, MSU won its first playoff game since 1984. All would be well in Bobcat Country, if only those same football players who brought the program back to prominence would stop getting arrested.
The string of arrests – which began in 2004 when a former assistant coach was convicted of selling methamphetamine and most recently involved at least one former player trafficking cocaine – cost head coach Mike Kramer his job. Someone had to take the fall for all the criminal behavior and the bad press that followed. But Kramer is somewhat of a folk hero in Bozeman, a coach as good at beating the Griz (three times in the last five) as he is at spouting one-liners. Many diehard ‘Cat fans are already talking about a grassroots effort to bring him back.
On the Internet message board BobcatNation.com, one poster, who called the firing a “gross injustice,” has started a petition. There is a rumor of a Tuesday night rally in Bozeman. If that doesn’t work, others suggested: boycott Bobcat football and encourage sponsors to pull back their support.
MSU Athletic Director Peter Fields said Kramer was fired because of a “crisis in leadership” that somehow contributed to athletes breaking the law. Many fans, not buying that argument, think Kramer was stabbed in the back. And pent-up anxiety that had faded in recent years has resurfaced. “Peter don’t show up in Missoula or Great Falls for the summer BBQ, you may not make it home,” one fan wrote. Another, placing blame elsewhere, suggested vigilante justice in dealing with the recent offenders.
The protests are likely all for naught. But with an open coaching position and a handful of former football players facing criminal charges (one with murder), a riled fan base wants answers. If anyone deserves them, they do.
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