There just couldn’t be a better idea than the move that’s underway in Missoula to change the name of Campus Drive, which circles Washington-Grizzly Stadium and runs at the foot of Mount Sentinel, to Don Read Boulevard.
The idea, which surfaced from a letter to President George Dennison by Scott Beaulieu posted on egriz.com, drew a quick response from UM.
“The president asks me to let you know that he too is a great admirer of Coach Read and all he did for the Montana football program and Grizzly athletics,” wrote Kathleen Collins, assistant to the president. “We will pursue the possibility expressed in your message.”
Seventh-year head coach Bobby Hauck, who is closing in on Read’s all-time win total, said he also was in favor of such a move.
“Anything to honor Don Read would be great in my book,” he said.
Read, who was named Athletic Director Emeritus after he left the AD position when Jim O’Day was hired in 2005, was hired in 1986 to head a floundering football program and immediately took the Grizzlies to a winning season (6-4), starting a streak now spanning 24 years.
When his third team won eight games in 1988, it marked the first time since the Camellia Bowl years of 1969-1970 that a Grizzly team had claimed that many victories. It also marked UM’s second FCS playoff appearance.
In his initial season at the helm he won more games than the team had claimed the previous two years combined, and in his fourth season he led the Grizzlies to the I-AA playoffs where they advanced to the semi-final game before losing to eventual-champion Georgia Southern.
Before retiring after claiming the national championship over Marshall in 1995, Read became the winningest coach (85-36) in school history, a mark that still stands.
But this man who affectionately became known as “Papa Bear” brought more to Griz Nation than just winning football.
Through his UM tenure he gave hundreds of hats and other items to people for being “one of the good guys,” often left small candy bars at the desks and mail slots of members of the athletic department and while he seldom remembered anybody’s name – and that includes his players – when you talked to Don Read you always came away with a smile on your face and the warm feeling that he genuinely cared about talking to you.
When Wayne Hogan resigned as athletic director amid a $1 million budget shortfall, the university quickly turned to Read not just for his leadership skills but for his morals and the respect he immediately brought to the athletic department
As they say, he truly is a leader among men, and someone who carved an indelible mark on all parts of, not just the University of Montana, but the University of Oregon, Portland State University and Oregon State University where he now is working as a volunteer coach.
The coaching staff he assembled in 1986 included Tommy Lee, who just retired as the head coach at UM-Western; Bob Beers, an NFL scout and former head coach of the Denver Crush of the Arena League; Jerome Souers, 11-year head coach at Northern Arizona; Bill Smith, defensive line coach at Northern Arizona; Vic Clark, a former college head coach and Robin Pflugrad, current UM wide receiver coach.
Subsequent staffs included former UM and Utah State University head coach Mick Dennehy and David Reeves, former Rocky Mountain College head coach and now an assistant at NAU.
Already enshrined in the Grizzly Sports Hall of Fame, Read is the epitome of a humble and unassuming man who influenced countless lives in his 26 years of head coaching and lengthy tenure in athletics and higher education.
There just couldn’t be a better idea than renaming Campus Drive to honor Don Read.
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