Ex-Griz coach, athletic director defend record, say there's more to story

2013-07-27T06:15:00Z 2014-10-03T14:28:39Z Ex-Griz coach, athletic director defend record, say there's more to story missoulian.com

Together, they’ve taken a lot of the heat for the NCAA’s investigation into the University of Montana football program.

With Friday’s announcement of sanctions against the Grizzlies, former UM head football coach Robin Pflugrad and ex-athletic director Jim O’Day spoke on their own behalf.

According to the NCAA report detailing infractions from 2011, Pflugrad failed to adequately monitor the football program, allowing boosters to provide extra benefits to players, including bail money and legal representation.

Currently the offensive coordinator for Weber State, Pflugrad has been suspended from his coaching duties for the first game of the 2013 campaign. He has also been leveled with recruiting restrictions for the upcoming season.

Pflugrad’s contention is that the NCAA was “extremely technical” in its Montana investigation. Specifically, he takes issue with the word “booster” in one specific instance.

In its report, the NCAA determined that a “booster” – the mother of another Griz player who resides in Missoula – bailed Gerald Kemp and Trumaine Johnson out of jail after their arrest on Oct. 23, 2011. She paid $130 for one player and $190 for the other.

Kemp’s grandfather, who lives out of state, later reimbursed the mother with a personal check for the total amount of the bail. However, under NCAA rules, he waited too long to do so, and Pflugrad failed to inform Montana’s compliance office.

“In the highest degree of technicality, I looked at that relationship, as a mother of a player whose teammate was in trouble, and when does that cross over to being a booster?” Pflugrad said. “If that’s my biggest mistake, then I’m going to move forward with it. Because there has to be some form of humanity in what we do.”

The NCAA also determined that Johnson and Kemp each received $1,500 in free legal representation stemming from the incident. O’Day and Pflugrad say they did not monitor that situation.

“I talked to quite a few coaches in the Pac-12 and the Big Sky Conference,” Pflugrad offered. “Not one of them have ever physically monitored the legal payments of an arrest.

“You know the first thing I did, I made sure none of our coaches had bailed out players. That was my job and I moved on from there.”

Incidents involving Johnson and Kemp were not the only infractions by Montana, according to the NCAA report. But the general consensus is that the NCAA came to town as a result of that situation.

Its 18-month investigation has resulted in the loss of scholarships for upcoming seasons and the vacating of five wins from 2011.

“I understand some of those scholarship losses,” O’Day said, “only in the fact the NCAA has been in here 18 months and they’ve allocated a lot of resources and personnel and time to look at it.

“They absolutely had to come away with something. It’s no different than the IRS when they go in and they are red-flagged on something. They’ve got to come away with something.”

O’Day takes issue with vacating wins, claiming “there’s so much more to the story.”

“Until all of that comes out, which I believe it will, it’s kind of a disappointment,” he said. “It took a lot of hard work and effort by a lot of people on that team. To vacate all that is not fair to those kids.”

***

Although Pflugrad will pay a price for what happened in Missoula in 2011, Weber State head football coach Jody Sears remains firmly in his corner.

“We did an assessment and knew there was a possibility of some things coming down the road,” Sears said. “But like I told (Weber State AD Jerry) Bovee from the get-go, the kind of character and person of integrity Robin Pflugrad is and the amount respect he has in our profession ...

“It was in our opinion he was extremely forthcoming with the potentiality of things. We were looking more at the integrity and character in the man himself than the possibility of things out of our control. We stuck with it and we are extremely happy and blessed to have him on our staff. I still think that.”

Pflugrad will call the plays for Weber State this season, so it’s a considerable disadvantage not having him in that capacity for the Wildcats’ opener at Utah on Sept. 7. But knowing what he does now, Sears would still hire Pflugrad all over again.

“In many ways, he brings a great wealth of knowledge and experience to our program,” Sears said. “From the Xs and Os to discipline and (NCAA) compliance, he’s brought lots of value to our program.”

***

Pflugrad and O’Day were fired by UM President Royce Engstrom in March 2012 without the university giving a reason. The firings came after numerous allegations of sexual assault also surfaced, as well as questions about UM’s handling of those allegations.

In retrospect, Pflugrad takes issue with how that situation was handled.

“There was an overall climate and publicity that assisted in creating a certain atmosphere in which the administration overreacted,” he said. “That resulted in the termination of the athletic director and myself as head football coach.”

Whether Pflugrad ever lands another job as a Division I head coach remains to be seen. Regardless, he holds a place in his heart for Missoula and the Grizzlies. His lasting support was never more evident than this spring when he showed up at Washington-Grizzly Stadium to support his former players at Pro Day.

“That team’s special up there in Montana,” he said. “Those guys are special to me.”

Pflugrad and O’Day are both hesitant to speak off the cuff. Instead, they sit back and hope that someday all the details of Montana’s athletic ordeal come out.

“People wonder how long this will take to clear this up,” O’Day said. “Just like I said when we were removed from our positions, you’ve got to let history tell the story.

“I believe that’s the case here. It’s going to take some time for us to see just exactly what kind of damage it has done to the program and the university. Those are all things we’ll be able to look back on in 10 years and see really what happened.”

Reporter ​Bill Speltz can be reached at 523-5255 or bill.speltz@lee.net.

Copyright 2015 missoulian.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(14) Comments

  1. Cato
    Report Abuse
    Cato - August 02, 2013 10:45 am
    "In its report, the NCAA determined that a “booster” – the mother of another Griz player who resides in Missoula – bailed Gerald Kemp and Trumaine Johnson out of jail after their arrest on Oct. 23, 2011. She paid $130 for one player and $190 for the other.

    "Kemp’s grandfather, who lives out of state, later reimbursed the mother with a personal check for the total amount of the bail. However, under NCAA rules, he waited too long to do so, and Pflugrad failed to inform Montana’s compliance office."
    ------------------------------------------
    How on earth a coach would be "monitoring" these kinds of things is completely beyond belief. The arrest was stupid in the first place, but to classify a "mom" as a "booster?" Isn't that what all "mom's" are? What in the h*** is a coach supposed to do, keep calling grandpa every day? This is the dumbest violation I think I have ever read.
  2. Alan Johnson
    Report Abuse
    Alan Johnson - July 28, 2013 12:30 am
    No. Why don't you document the "basket-weaving" classes. No one else should do your research for you when you make wild claims like this.. So lets have it. Every football player, every grade report. Every class taken. Or maybe you will admit you have no basis for your silly statement.
  3. retiredmsla
    Report Abuse
    retiredmsla - July 27, 2013 10:22 pm
    UM athletes routinely return after summer school with straight A's in basket weaving from no-name programs. It's a good waynto produce a high GPA. Check it out.
  4. Bass Whacker
    Report Abuse
    Bass Whacker - July 27, 2013 5:53 pm
    My disgust with the NCAA aside, Engstrom fed Phlu and ODay to the NCAA as his sacrificial lambs. Anyone who didn't see this CYA move coming wasn't paying attention. It's time for the Regents to act on this pathetic hack. Sorry UM students but my yearly excellence fund and other donations will be withheld (but accumulated to be donated later) until Engstrom is gone. I will continue support Griz athletics just to spite the weasel.
  5. Bob
    Report Abuse
    Bob - July 27, 2013 4:34 pm
    Interesting only now they come forward with the "real story". Pflugrad mentions technicalities. As a div 1 head coach he should be well versed in NCAA rules, the excuse of not knowing them is stupidity. Likewise if ODay wants to use the IRS analogy, fine. But if we were then to equate him to a CPA, with the responsibility of knowing IRS tax law inside out, then he is a failure as well if something got "red flagged" and they "came away with something".
  6. dsrobins
    Report Abuse
    dsrobins - July 27, 2013 2:43 pm
    It sounds like Pflugrad and O'Day are both whiners unwilling to accept responsibility for their negligence. No wonder they were both fired.
  7. johnny Dollar
    Report Abuse
    johnny Dollar - July 27, 2013 11:24 am
    The Regents are the pathetic class here. Engstrom presides over waning enrollment, continued reports of sexual attacks on women and the classic "Washing of the hands" ceremony he did on O'Day and Pleu.

    But we see no petty grievances filed rt reported on him. We see no chastisement for his dismal lack of leadership nor his failing report card.

    The Regents should taken to the woodshed, but they seem to have no acountability?
  8. Roger
    Report Abuse
    Roger - July 27, 2013 11:19 am
    Too bad someone can't fire the NCAA - 18 months, and this nitpicking nonsense is all they can come up with? As for that little weasel Engstrom, he should be fired.
  9. hcamper
    Report Abuse
    hcamper - July 27, 2013 9:42 am
    You need to read the ncaa report. UM athletes have an overall higher GPA than the general student population. Your comment has no credibility.
  10. thomascash
    Report Abuse
    thomascash - July 27, 2013 9:01 am
    The hypocrisy of the NCAA's charges is laughable but has real consequences to these two targets. Haven't read the report. Won't bother unless something else is reported. Billions of dollars are made by colleges and uniiversities, ESPN , NIKE, etc.exploiting and persecuting these "amateur" athletes. Few become professionals or have careers longer than 3 years. Some do complete their degrees and they have normal lives. A new crop each year makes most easily expendable. Shame on the NCAA. Too bad the players and coaches don't have a union to represent them. Can't count on any backbone or loyalty in Main Hall.
  11. T-Bone7
    Report Abuse
    T-Bone7 - July 27, 2013 8:31 am
    I still think Engstrom should've been canned, not Phlu and O'day
  12. retiredmsla
    Report Abuse
    retiredmsla - July 27, 2013 8:26 am
    Coaches and athletic directors are supposed to know the rules of competion. Otherwise, they should be janitors. There are a million excuses for not obeying the rules,..."oh, I was being kind.". Yes, and you were cheating.

    I attendednthe University of North Carolina when Dean Smith was head basketball coach. His players attended class, studied, made good grades, and conducted themselves in an exemplary manner. If they didn't they didn't play. He had no problem with recruiting. The UM program has had a perennial problem with players exhibiting thuggery, getting borderline grades and, in general being a pain in the butt to local police. It was onlyna matter of time before this sort of thing happened. The coach and AD set the lowest possible standard and it bit them in the backside.

    I'd watch the school that hired Pflu for low standards and violations of their own.
  13. Pistol
    Report Abuse
    Pistol - July 27, 2013 7:03 am
    In ten years people will look back and wonder how Engstrom ever got the job, and even more survived the mess he added to rather than solve. To bad the NCAA isn't more like our legal system. If they were the judge and jury in the Johnson trial Johnson would be in prison. It would be great for O'Day, Pflugrad, boosters, players and lawyers involved to testify publibly. Why was there settlements made to Pflugrad and O'Day if Engstrom was correct in firing them? They note in the findings an athletic department employee provided special benefits. Why wasn't her name made public, and what benefits did she provide?The rest of the story please.
  14. montanamuralist
    Report Abuse
    montanamuralist - July 26, 2013 10:49 pm
    I agree with Jim. The NCAA had to come away with something. Personally I felt the whole thing was kind of nit picky and the way Engstrom fired them both a total disgrace. At least have the courtesy to give some warning or a private meeting. No class! Unlike Phlu and O'Day. Total class.
Missoulian Civil Dialogue Policy

Civil Dialogue Policy for Commenting on Missoulian.com

We provide this community forum for readers to exchange ideas and opinions on the news of the day. Passionate views, pointed criticism and critical thinking are welcome. Comments can only be submitted by registered users. By posting comments on our site, you are agreeing to the following terms:

Commentary and photos submitted to the Missoulian (Missoulian.com) may be published or distributed in print, electronically or other forms. Opinions expressed in Missoulian.com's comments reflect the opinions of the author, and are not necessarily the opinions of the Missoulian or its parent company. See the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy for more information.

Our guidelines prohibit the solicitation of products or services, the impersonation of another site user, threatening or harassing postings and the use of vulgar, abusive, obscene or sexually oriented language, defamatory or illegal material. You may not post content that degrades others on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability or other classification. It's fine to criticize ideas, but ad hominem attacks on other site users are prohibited. Users who violate those standards may lose their privileges on missoulian.com.

You may not post copyrighted material from another publication. (Link to it instead, using a headline or very brief excerpt.)

No short policy such as this can spell out all possible instances of material or behavior that we might deem to be a violation of our publishing standards, and we reserve the right to remove any material posted to the site.

Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Jenna Cederberg presents the latest news you need to know about today's headlines in ab…

Sidney tornado

Sidney tornado

Dexter Jensen shot this video of a tornado that touched down Tuesday near Sidney.

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Martin Kidston presents the latest news you need to know about today's h…

Richard Sullivan reads a statement at his sentencing.

Richard Sullivan reads a statement at his sentencing.

Sullivan gives a statement at his sentencing.

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Jenna Cederberg presents the latest news you need to know about today's …

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Rob Chaney presents the latest news you need to know about today's headl…

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Jenna Cederberg presents the latest news you need to know about today's …

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Kate Haake presents the latest news you need to know about today's headl…

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Martin Kidston presents the latest news you need to know about today's h…

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Martin Kidston presents the latest news you need to know about today's h…

loading...

Search our events calendar