Watching the Montana Grizzlies championship dreams wilt on a soggy Chattanooga football field Friday night, we couldn't help but think it was karma—not Villanova—that ultimately beat the hometown squad.
How else to explain how an undefeated, top-ranked Griz team inexplicably shrinks during the second half to a scrappy underdog? What other reason makes sense when the supposed team of destiny, still riding the coattails of one of the most remarkable comebacks in college football this year (the opening round thriller against Stephen F. Austin), disappears during the biggest moment of the season? Aside from the inexplicable play-calling, we're going with karma.
That's all we could pin it on as Villanova's runners steamrolled Griz defenders like head coach Bobby Hauck does student journalists. Watching the game on national television, beaming with pride as boys from Drummond, Havre and Missoula lit up the high-definition screen, it was easy to forget what a mess Hauck created behind all the victories this season.
It started with news of yet another off-the-field incident involving Griz players, an annual problem that's hounded Hauck ever since he became top dog. But then the coach, due to stubbornness or arrogance, let a factually unquestioned article about the incident in the student newspaper get under his skin. Once Hauck blackballed student reporters at his weekly press conferences, sports journalists from across the country—ESPN, Sports Illustrated, the New York Times—lined up to put him in his rightful place. What started as a small blemish on Hauck's already pockmarked resume became a black eye for the entire institution—and city—he represents.
And what a shame. We wrote at the end of last year's championship game—another loss, that time to Richmond—that Hauck appeared to assemble one of the most likable Griz rosters in recent history. Marc Mariani, Chase Reynolds, Jabin Sambrano, Andrew Selle, Brandon Fisher and many more seem like exactly the type of gutsy, blue-collar, often homegrown players Griz faithful yearn to have represent their team. We couldn't be more proud of what they accomplished this season—and, more importantly, the class with which they achieved it.
Yet at the head of the sideline stands a churlish head coach who has never similarly endeared himself to the local fans. Even at the end of Friday's game, a humbled Hauck joked with reporters that, with three lost championship games, Chattanooga had been "a disaster for me, personally." The same could be said for his reign as head coach: We still find great honor in how most of the Griz represent Missoula, but Hauck, personally, has been a disaster.This story was corrected Jan. 4, 2010.