Trouble in Paradise?

By Beacon Staff

It’s always interesting when a national news organization picks up on a local story. In the case of Montana State University athletics, I wonder what took them so long. Sports Illustrated recently wrote an expansive piece dubbed, “Trouble in Paradise.” Most Montanans are familiar with MSU’s woes, but they may not be familiar with the following:

Accounts vary as to when Montana State began bringing troubled out-of-state athletes to this setting. One football player who attended the Division I-AA school in the early 1990s says the practice started before he got there. “There were players who would brag how they could have gone to a Pac-10 school if they had had the grades, which made you wonder how they got into Montana State,” says the player, who asked not to be named. “And everyone on the team knew who the guys were who had been in trouble with the law.”

Read the full story here.

I’d like to know the identity of that former Bobcat football player who is implying that MSU has been landing Pac-10 talent for the last 20 years. By my calculation, MSU football had just seven winning seasons in that stretch, won a single playoff game and compiled a record of 96 wins and 134 losses. You’d assume, in that time, with all these athletes playing a division below them, the team could at least break even.

The Pac-10 is solid. When eventual Big Sky Conference champion the University of Montana played the University of Oregon in 2005, the Griz were pasted 47-14. UM just couldn’t stack up against a Division-I football team. Thus all the potential Pac-10 athletes who attended MSU must have been busts, since the Bobcats at one point lost to the Griz 16 years in a row.

And how, exactly, did MSU become the default team for talented athletes who didn’t have the grades to play Pac-10 football? Great flyfishing opportunities for 300-pound linemen?

I’m nitpicking. The SI piece isn’t all bad. It does shed some light on a Bozeman resident whose radical solution to the crime wave is to deport former athletes. A division in the town is then amplified by senior running back Evin Groves from San Diego, who says, “A lot of people here think I am a thug just because my jeans aren’t as tight as a rancher’s.”

MSU has been reeling since two former athletes, both black, were accused of murder. The bad press is predictable and so are stories harping on race relations. But to use an unnamed source to accuse an athletic department of cutting corners for two decades to land burly, lawbreaking athletes holds little water. Just look at that record.

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