The interim tag has been lifted.

And perhaps so, too, have the hopes of a football-crazed Griz Nation.

The University of Montana and head coach Mick Delaney have agreed to a two-year contract, the school’s athletic department announced at a news conference Thursday morning inside the Canyon Club at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.

Delaney, 70, took over the Griz football program in March, when UM fired then-head coach Robin Pflugrad and athletic director Jim O’Day.

“He’s done an excellent job in providing leadership for us during this time of transition,” UM President Royce Engstrom said in his opening remarks. “We need to put in place a strong leader who will uphold the grand tradition of Grizzly football.”

Delaney, who is about to enter his 46th year of coaching, said he and his staff are “100 percent” committed to Montana and he’s excited about the administration also making a commitment.

“This tells our players that we are going to do what Grizzlies do, and that’s work hard, do the right things – both on and off the field – and compete for championships, just like we have for 12 of the last 13 years,” Delaney said. “That is not going to change, I can guarantee you that.”

Delaney joked that he wouldn’t guarantee any 15-0 seasons, but he knew the kind of expectations Griz fans have.

He also said that restoring the football program’s reputation, especially in the light of several ongoing federal investigations, starts with recruiting the right kind of players.

“I can guarantee you we will recruit kids of high character, No. 1, good academics, No. 2 ... and No. 3, they have to be able to play a little bit, too,” he said. “We do not have the time or the resources to chase guys around who will not do the right thing.”

Delaney, who had retired from coaching on Feb. 9, was initially asked by Engstrom to take the job on a one-year interim basis.

Engstrom didn’t give any reasons for the firings in the spring, saying only that change was needed.

“He came into a challenging situation and he rallied the coaching staff around him, he rallied the players around him and he rallied the fans around him,” Engstrom said. “He sent a very strong message that he’s here to have nothing but the most excellent football program.”

*****

When Delaney accepted the interim position, just his second head coaching gig ever and first since a stint at his alma mater UM-Western (1991-92), he made sure coaching through the fall was part of the deal, although he knew full well he might not be asked back after the one season.

“This is a very humbling and challenging experience,” Delaney said. “For a poor ol’ mine kid from Butte, this is a great opportunity. But it’s not about me. It’s about our players and our coaches. That’s all that matters is the student-athletes and the department.”

“From Day 1 it has always been about the players,” interim athletic director Jean Gee said. “It has never been about him, it has never been about anything but the students and the coaching staff. That, in and of itself, is why he’s the right person for the job.”

Hiring a head football coach is one of the biggest decisions a college administrator has to make, Gee said.

“The Grizzly football coaching staff, student athletes and the entire Griz Nation deserve the stability and the freedom to focus on the task at hand without the cloud of uncertainty overhead. They also deserve the best football coach. A man who knows the game, a man of integrity and a true leader,” said Gee, whose position is also being decided this summer. “When we contemplated who the next football coach should be, we didn’t have to look too far, because the right man was literally two doors down from mine.”

Exact terms of the contract were not made available Thursday, although Gee said Delaney’s base salary would be near $150,000. That figure could grow if certain performance incentives are met in addition to TV and radio money received on the side. Gee said a handful of signatures were still needed on the contract before it was processed and made public.

The deal, which expires Jan. 31, 2014, means Delaney is under contract for this coming season and the 2013 season. An extension would have to be reached in order for Delaney to coach in 2014 or beyond.

“That was part of the negotiation process with Mick,” Gee said. “We were basically pulling him out of retirement, so that’s what he was comfortable with, and we were, too.”

In recent years, coaches at both Montana and Montana State have been offered three-year contracts.

“That was discussed a little bit, but my feelings and Dr. Engstrom’s feelings were along the same lines – that stuff takes care of itself,” Delaney said. “If we’re successful and do things the right way, we’ll be here three years, four years, five years or however long. ... If we’re not successful, on or off the field, then obviously someone else will be here.”

Engstrom said it was important to make this announcement now to help solidify things like recruiting.

“We were at a point where the need for permanency was paramount,” said Engstrom, who’s gotten to know Delaney much better since March. “After a very short time, just a couple of months, it became very apparent to me that he’s the guy we need at the present time.”

Gee said she discussed the move with the players in an earlier meeting and described their reaction as “excited.”

“We’re all glad to have this settled,” she said. “The relief is palatable.”

The Griz open fall drills on Aug. 6.

(29) comments

Alan Johnson
Alan Johnson

Oh, yeah, the fair weather fans show their true colors. If you hold a season ticket, which I doubt, give it to someone who wants it. Oh, you haven't even been to a Griz football game? I'm not surprised. Oh, you really support some other Big Sky team? I'm not surprised. Cheap shots under a fictional name doesn't make you brave.

CRSGUY
CRSGUY

Concerning Coach Delaney becoming head coach for you Griz and your reaction ……..WOW! I can’t believe you guys are trashing a guy that is obviously well respected and has been on staff for so many years. A smart and successful coach (Pretty Boy, Hauck and Pflugrad) surrounds himself with as smart or smarter support staff and then manages that talent to UM’s obvious successful program. This guy has seen it all at the UM and you guys dismiss that as if he is some kind of washed-up, has-been loser. For those that are looking for a celebrity coach to head your program, a real world coach is to develop the available talent, make the game plan and attempt to motivate the players. In the end, it is still up to the players to execute and win the game. As far as I can tell, no one has transferred and your pool of talent is deep except in the position of quarterback. Keep in mind; your past coaches are really why you are in this mess. Their lack of oversight of the players on and off the field and the lack of consequences for breaking team rules and code of conduct is really why the hammer is coming down on the program. Players have to know that they will be punished for their actions on and off the field and it is quite obvious that did not happen at the UM with past head coaches. Delaney will know what really happened in the locker room in the past and I feel he will make changes for the better in the future. As a Bobcat I feel for your program because Cats had their own little scandal too, but I still expect Coach Delaney to put a top notch team on the field come November so that UM has no excuse for losing to the CATS this year in Missoula! Rock on Coach Delaney!!

what the h
what the h

Maybe I am all wet but I think the real point is being missed here. Nothing has really changed. It is still a culture of cover up. Yesterday the article in the Missoula quote Delaney as saying I don't know what the press conference is about. I was just told to show up. Today it is announced that he is no longer the interm coach. It is now a two contract. Does anyone really believe that Delaney didn't know that? Then you have Jean's quote about a man of integrity. This guy is already lying to everyone. Lets get really we will never be able to understand because they will continue to cover it all up. There still are a couple of people that still need to go down the road and I can't believe the Board of Regents hasn't done it yet.

hellgatenights
hellgatenights

“I can guarantee you we will recruit kids of high character, No. 1, good academics, No. 2 ... and No. 3, they have to be able to play a little bit, too,” he said. “We do not have the time or the resources to chase guys around who will not do the right thing.”

REally? And HOW do you know they will do the "Right" thing? Are you going to ask their mama if they are good boys?

I would expect a stupid statement from a bonehead who just got a big paycheck he does not deserve. If we must have a new coach, why didn't the Athletic Director put out a national search? Delaney is retires, he is too old, and he is not a head coach.....never has been.

What we need is the Trustee's to "Do the Right thing" and fire Engstrom. He is done at U of M........it is inevitable.

UMalumnus
UMalumnus

Why all the anger? Here is a man who coached the team for years, stepped up when he was needed and is being rewarded for his work. Are you on campus? Are you part of the school or the team? Do you know anything about his capabilities? Very few coaches in the sport of college football get a chance to be head coaches.

Delaney was obviously making a point with a little bit of humor. Jeez.

Oh and Montana has a Board of Regents, not Trustees.

sportscaster
sportscaster

People who really know Mick Delaney - not some of the folks who act like they know everything about everybody writing earlier comments - realize how fortunate UM is that he was willing to come out of retirement to be interim coach and how smart, finally, the powers-that-be were to take the interim title now rather than in October or November. Those who hate football for whatever reason will never have a clue. Those who like football are hopeful that the unnecessary firings that occurred in March are the last knee-jerk decision the UM leadership makes (although following that with the on-and-off application of the breathalizer idea to the Foresters' Ball has to fall in that category as well). Good for you, Mick, and thanks for your willingness to step into a touch situation for all of the right reasons.

montanamuralist
montanamuralist

Kudos to all who thought this was the topic at the press conference. I was bracing for the NCAA although I am not as worried about that as some...I think the response time was good on that...and the kids either removed or sent to the legal system. We will see I could be wrong but really do not know what the NCAA would complain about...and if O'Day and Plu were trying to cover up they were removed...Meantime, Engstrom picking a coach is not the best but could have been worse...I hope...

hellgatenights
hellgatenights

Yep....the Grizzly dynasty is over. When you bring on a aged assistant coach decades past his prime, you have a problem. When you hire a man that has NEVER been a head coach......you got a loser.

Engstrom has no business picking a coach as he is done at the UofM,,,,,,,,the train has already left.

UMalumnus
UMalumnus

Under what possible basis do you have for your assertion that Engstrom is done? He has cleaned out (one that was largely left to him by Dennison), he has been more open than any president before him, he has the confidence of the Regents (if he didn't he would have been gone about a year ago). You don't like him, we get it. But if I remember correctly, you posts have been very anti-Griz, anti-UM, anti-just about everything for months now.

Pistol
Pistol

Engstrom has been a PR disaster! He seems to have no clue about leadership. As far as openness! He makes decisions without consulting his staff. Now he keeps stating his actions have not hurt fund raising or recruitment. Not true!

Pistol
Pistol

What a joke your statement that,"when you hire a man that has NEVER been a head coach....you got a loser. Every head coach has a first head coaching job. Some succeed some fail some do so well their in the hall of fame. Hauck,and Pflugrad both did well in Griz football, Montgomery, Morrill, Taylor, Tinkle all won Big Sky basketball championships. A better statement would be a coach with previous head coaching experience would in most cases be an advantage. I do agree Engstrom should had hired AD first, and then hire a new coach.

Pistol
Pistol

Engstrom screwed up another oppportunity to promote openness ! To bad coach Delaney went a long with it. It is great for the assistant coaches, and recruitment to have a coach in place. Problem I see is main hall, Engstrom, not thinking things out. Wouldn't have better to hire a new AD, and have their feedback on who should coach the football team? Looks like Engstrom plans to micro manage the athletic department. Why they're at it hire some one who has a clue about public relations.

lmmontana
lmmontana

Well - at the end of the season when the 70 year old coach who's career includes head coaching for such winning heavy hitters as UM Western fails to win games, motivate players, or hold up the legacy of Griz Nation it will be no surprise that the Missoula economy is in the tank - think sponsorship dollars, think tourist dollars . . . Unless someone comes out with any information actually implicating coach Pflugrad - this is just another part of the Engstrom witch hunt that will mark is spineless path-of-least-resistance, cover your can administration. The culpable students are still students and Pflugrad was left to cleanup Hauk's mess and paid for it with his livelihood - now it seems we will all pay for it - Thanks Griz Football - you had a good run there for a while.

furiousgeorge
furiousgeorge

This could be some bad news in disguise. Thinking could have been, after Penn we better lock the guy in before it gets rough for a few years. While nowhere near the severity, longevity, or number of victims/alleged victims I think there may be some unpleasant decisions made soon.

montanamuralist
montanamuralist

Overcharge on tickets and manipulate the fans and Delaney had to lie to please the brass when it turns out it was all over Butte yesterday?..Oh and one of the few schools that charge the athletic department for the scholarships they give to players. Meanwhile the program brings in alumni support and dollars to the University. I understand confidentiality about players and their legal situation but do NOT understand this coy attitude from the President. I am amazed a quality guy like Delaney took the job but happy for some positive news. At least we have a coach...well for now.....

detonate
detonate

I see you still want us to pay you to go to the games... (overcharge on tickets) I'm a season ticket holder and I think there is great entertainment value in my season tickets. Do you have any idea what this does for Mick's retirement ?? Didn't think so...Z

MT oldie
MT oldie

PS: The U of M just gave the Missoulian a reason to drag all of the garbage back into the paper - that's what happens when one tries to be coy....By the way, it is not about a new AD - the cast of thousands on the recruitment team are just now going through applications and choosing those to be interviewed.

MT oldie
MT oldie

Good Lord. Who in their right mind would go to a press conference without knowing the content. Delaney knows exactly what is going to happen. It was all over Butte yesterday that he is getting a two year extension on his contract. Why pretend to be dumb???? Does the U of M really think we're that stupid??? Why not just say I can't or won't comment? So much for the transparency U of M talks about. It's time they walk the walk. They are in dire need of a good PR person.

Mazola
Mazola

An announcement to be made at the Canyon Club has to be good news right? I'm with the Mick temp tag removal and perhaps some additional good news, like the removal of little monte, the halting of Peter Christian babbling while the U of M band plays, the return of the "globe of death", a night game or two, and free Vikings!

No by line on this article? I like the paragraph that starts..."Meanwhile...." hahahaha...it reeks of Gwen.

dave ajou
dave ajou

Now there's a great trivia question. I remember seeing the " globe of death" play live, and praying that it was never, ever deployed again..except for entertainment purposes. I second the free vikings motion.

montanamuralist
montanamuralist

I want to hear something about the NCAA investigation. I think it could be about that. Don't know how that would be handled if the NCAA did not find any violations or if they notify the university. I am very concerned about them judging an entire program on the behavior of a few players when we have guys like Tripp and so many others who are absolute positives in the community. I will feel better when we get past that. Delaney does sound coy!!! A few hours and we will know.

UMalumnus
UMalumnus

After re-reading Delaney's comments and seeing him quoted elsewhere... I have a feeling he's being coy. I update my prediction to say either Gee and Delaney lose the interim tag or Delaney gets the spot for good (unless he really does want to go back to retirement) and a new AD is named.

BayouBill
BayouBill

Jordan Johnson will transfer to Portland State as a condition of his accuser to drop the charges.

BayouBill
BayouBill

Jordan Johnson will leave UM and transfer to Portland State as a condition of having the
charges dropped by his accuser.

montanamuralist
montanamuralist

Ah that is good news. I did not see that tonight on the news...out doing the garden. Would be nice to get the interim tag of Mick and get an athletic director in place. I am not so worried about the NCAA because I really do not think there was a cover up knowing the folks up there. They would get rid of the players involved if there was clear evidence. Sounds to me like the Johnson case has some stuff going on that is not in the public eye otherwise he would be gone...so I am seeing light at the end of the tunnel. Tell me it is not a train coming!!!

UMalumnus
UMalumnus

KECI is reporting sources saying this is about staffing and is "positive news" for the university. My bet: new AD or Delaney gets the interim tag removed from his title, especially given that it's the Athletic Department hosting it and where it's taking place. Finally some good news.

Pistol
Pistol

Hopefully if Delaney is getting interm tag removed he already knows that. Be a shame for him to get tag removed and family, coaches, and players aren't present. The way Engstrom works who knows. Engstrom has screwed up every PR opportunity so far. I am sure Gee didn't get AD job. The UM would bring in some finalist to meet, and greet boosters. Unless this is to announce, and introduce AD finalists.

truthseeker
truthseeker

My money is on Mick Delaney being named permanent head coach, no more interim tag.

montanamuralist
montanamuralist

Finally going to get something I hope for fans who are the ones that really pay the bill here. I think Engstrom and his elitists have kind of forgotten that. I think that someone needs to remind them as well where a few of the new buildings around the campus came from...supportive alum who follow the Griz. Certainly we did not see that kind of support prior to UM's football success. I remember those days. Anyway we are going to hear something and hopefully it is a good sign that the press conference is at UM and not the NCAA....I am still chewing on my nails waiting to hear whatever news will come...Hoping for the best...

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.