University of Montana teams have played football on five home fields over the years. Two were named after Paul Logan Dornblaser, a former three-sport star, student body president and World War I hero who died on a battlefield in France in 1918, weeks before Armistice Day.
It’s good to know Dornblaser’s name and legacy are still attached to UM’s track and field stadium on South Higgins Avenue, even if there’s nothing there to denote it.
The first Dornblaser football facility (1925-1967) was a genuine stone-and-ivy stadium at the base of Mount Sentinel. Players took the field from the north doors of what’s now Schreiber Gym and scored touchdowns roughly in the offices of Shali Zhang, current dean of the Mansfield Library. Not many touchdowns, though. The Grizzlies posted just eight winning seasons in those 4 1/2 decades.
“New” Dornblaser (1968-1986) opened as a temporary field, capable of seating half the number of spectators that Washington-Grizzly Stadium does these days but rarely doing so. Fans in the wood and steel bleachers witnessed a brief resurgence of fortunes under Jack Swarthout, whose Silvertip teams posted back-to-back 10-1 seasons in 1969 and ’70.
In their first game on South Higgins in ’68, the Grizzlies pounded Portland State 58-0, a team coached by 34-year-old Don Read. In their last game there, in September 1986, Read was in his first year at UM and the Griz escaped with a 42-37 win over Eastern Washington.
Two weeks later, they downed Idaho State 38-31 in their debut at Washington-Grizzly Stadium, named for industrialist Dennis Washington, who donated $1 million to finance construction. In 29 seasons since, Grizzly teams have won two national championships and are 175-26 (.871) in their new digs heading into this Saturday’s homecoming game against Northern Colorado.