How odd it is to be associated with something that many would like to see fail.
There was a time many in the Big Sky Conference sought, like former Portland State University Coach Jerry Glanville who did so outwardly, to emulate the University of Montana football program, Lady Griz basketball and, for that matter, everything Missoula. Many were jealous of the school’s success and silently hoped for its demise.
And after decades of triumph, the rest of the league did start catching up a bit with women’s hoops, even though coach Robin Selvig took his team to a surprise league tournament title and subsequent NCAA appearance.
But football, of course, was a different story.
The first dent in the armor occurred after an opening-season loss at Eastern Washington University. Then there was the tragic injury to starting quarterback Andrew Selle. And while there were few fans willing to admit it, the Grizzlies looked vulnerable.
After the loss to Montana State University, UM had dropped two of its last three and was not playing its best football at the end of the season.
I have to admit, maybe even for the first time, that when playoff selections were made, I was relieved the Grizzlies weren’t in the field for the first time in 18 years.
At 7-4 they only deserved to be in the playoffs based on their reputation and were destined to head off on the road to face a far better team.
But while Montana continues to be listed in the pre-season Top 20 in most circles, I like the underdog role this team will assume heading into practice in about a month.
With an unproven commodity at quarterback, no matter who wins the job, and forced to replace of one of the top three running backs in the program’s history in Chase Reynols, there are plenty of unknowns.
Watching the Grizzlies progress, which I know they will, is going to be enjoyable and rewarding. And I predict the league title will be decided on a snowy November afternoon in Bozeman.
As a society we enjoy seeing chinks in the armor. About half the country cheered against LeBron James and celebrated his eventual demise in the NBA playoffs.
Eight other Big Sky Conference universities and several others in the Football Championship Subdivision were likely pleased to see Montana’s absence from the playoff field.
But the national respect that Montana has garnered over almost two decades of football dominance has not disappeared And I’m sure in some corners there are those who feel it is unwarranted.
But I like the sound of underdog – it seems to make success that more rewarding.
University of Montana athletics do not feel some sense of entitlement. But tradition has shown there’s a good chance its teams, coaches and administration may outwork you to reach pinnacles of success.
To that end, and mark my words, UM football will be back.
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