This past spring meant a timely return for Robin Pflugrad.
Less than 10 months after rejoining the Montana football program, Pflugrad was named to replace Bobby Hauck as the Grizzlies' head coach on Thursday.
The 51-year-old Pflugrad is the 34th coach in the program's 109-year history. The highest-profile hire in Jim O'Day's five years as athletic director at Montana came eight days after Hauck took over as coach at UNLV on Dec. 23.
Pflugrad had been on Don Read's staff at Montana from 1986-94, presiding over the first two of the Grizzlies' current streak of 17 playoff seasons, a Football Championship Subdivision record.
"It is an honor and a privilege to be named the head football coach at the University of Montana," Pflugrad said in a UM release. "I want to thank Don Read for giving me an opportunity to get into the coaching profession, as well as for bringing me to Montana with him in 1986.
"I also want to thank Bobby Hauck for giving me a chance to come back to Montana and once again become part of the Grizzly football family. I also want to thank Jim O'Day for giving me this opportunity."
Pflugrad was the assistant head coach at UM when he left for Arizona State following the 1994 season, to become the Sun Devils' receivers' coach and recruiting coordinator. He moved to Northern Arizona in 2001, and then to Washington State as receivers' coach and recruiting coordinator in '02, and to Oregon in '06.
After the 2008 season, new Oregon coach Chip Kelly brought in Scott Frost to coach receivers, and Pflugrad wound up coaching the Griz wideouts on a volunteer basis this past spring. Pflugrad officially became the Grizzlies' receivers' coach during the summer.
Now he's the head honcho; a news conference to formally introduce Pflugrad will likely be Tuesday. He could not be reached by the Missoulian late Thursday.
"Robin is the right person for the job," O'Day said in a release. "He has impressive credentials and will do an outstanding job leading the Montana Grizzly football team.
"This has been an opportunity he's been looking forward to for many years. There's no doubt in my mind he will continue to build on the success of the program."
Hauck went 80-17 in seven seasons at UM, after beating out, among others, Pflugrad for the job in 2003. Three of Hauck's teams made the FCS title game, losing each time.
Pflugrad, who also interviewed when Joe Glenn was hired to replace Mick Dennehy in 2000, inherits a team that loses six starters on defense and seven on offense.
But the talent that returns - including Walter Payton Award candidate Chase Reynolds, quarterback Andrew Selle, linebacker Alex Shaw, corner Trumaine Johnson and defensive tackle Tyler Hobbs - is formidable.
"I am looking forward to the challenges of the job, and am excited to get on the recruiting trail," said Pflugrad. "We had a tremendous senior class which needs to be replaced and that will be a daunting challenge, but I look forward to that challenge.
"I know the majority of our players who will be returning and look forward to working with them."
Pflugrad and offensive line coach Chad Germer both returned for second stints at Montana last spring, and with them in the fold the Grizzlies cut their sacks allowed and averaged 35.8 points a game. The Griz went 14-1, with the only loss coming 23-21 to Villanova in the Division I Football Championship on Dec. 18.
Hauck took the UNLV job five days later, leaving O'Day to pick a successor.
"This was a difficult choice as the applicant pool was extremely talented," said O'Day. "More than 100 qualified candidates applied for the job."
It appears Pflugrad was one of three finalists, along with Boise State receivers' coach Brent Pease and Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Doeren. Those two, like Pflugrad, coached at UM.
Pease also played quarterback for the Griz in 1985-86 before becoming their offensive coordinator from 1996-98. He interviewed for the offensive coordinator's job at Arizona State this week. Boise State is in Tempe, Ariz., to face Texas Christian in a battle of unbeatens in Monday's Fiesta Bowl.
Doeren coached the secondary at UM in 2000-01 and reportedly had the backing of Glenn, who guided the Griz to the FCS title in '01. Doeren's Badgers went 10-3 this season, including a 20-14 win over Miami in the Champs Sports Bowl on Tuesday, and a 31-13 victory at Ohio State in October.
Others who interviewed included Carroll College coach Mike Van Diest and Utah offensive coordinator Dave Schramm. Sources said Schramm, who was on Hauck's staff from 2003-04, was told he would not be hired on Wednesday.
Andre Patterson, who played for UM in 1981 and was Cal Poly's head coach from 1994-96, also interviewed. The veteran NFL assistant spent the past three seasons as defensive line coach at UNLV.
Pflugrad played at Portland State from 1978-79 - he was a second-team Division II Academic All-American as a senior - but for Mouse Davis, not Read. Neil Lomax was the Vikings' quarterback.
He coached one season with Davis in 1980, and then joined the high school ranks at South Eugene, Ore., before getting on Read's staff at PSU in 1982.
Pflugrad has now been a coach for 30 years. In that time, he has helped develop seven quarterbacks or receivers who earned All-American recognition, including senior Griz standout Marc Mariani.
Pflugrad now has the weekend to try to line up his staff, which he hopes to announce by the middle of next week. Hauck, perhaps not coincidentally, planned to announce his UNLV staff on Monday.
Football recruiting starts anew on Monday.
Reporter Fritz Neighbor can be reached at 523-5247 or at email@example.com.