Tim Hauck, David Morris and the 1974-75 men’s basketball team all provided athletic high points in the annals of Montana Grizzly athletics, and the Big Sky Conference noticed.
On Thursday the Big Sky began releasing its list of top 50 men’s athletes, and Hauck, a two-time league defensive MVP for the football Grizzlies, was 46th.
The Big Sky also began releasing its top moments, from 50 down to 45, and NCAA indoor 3,000 meters champion Morris was honored, along with the 1974-75 Griz.
“Tim Hauck was all about character and heart,” said Jerome Souers, Hauck’s defensive coach at Montana who is now head coach at Northern Arizona. “The talent he had, he made the most of. He was a walk-on. He had amazing collision skills. He was one of the smartest players I ever coached. They don’t get any tougher. Guys like that don’t come along very often.”
Hauck was listed at 5-foot-10 and 187 pounds during his NFL career, but he was much smaller when he began playing college ball at Pacific University, an NAIA program in Oregon.
“My goal was to play for Montana, but they didn’t recruit me,” Hauck said. “I decided that maybe I wasn’t good enough to play at the Big Sky level, so I made that choice. I really wanted to play, so if I couldn’t go to Montana, I was going to go play somewhere.”
After a stellar year at Pacific, Hauck turned once again toward UM, which had just hired Don Read as football coach.
“I was still 160 pounds,” said Hauck, who is now the defensive coordinator at UNLV. “But Don Read and Jerome Souers welcomed me with open arms. They got me to come back as a walk-on. They had no idea who I was. My dad was a head coach in the state, so maybe they thought it was a good publicity move.”
Whatever the reasons, Hauck went on to earn All-American status in 1988-89 and became the first Big Sky football player to earn back-to-back defensive MVP awards. It was also Hauck who made the No. 37 jersey tradition take off, after he was willed it by former teammate Kraig Paulson.
“I look back on my career and it was very rewarding,” Hauck said. “The first time I won the Big Sky MVP, I thought, ‘Wow, am I really that good?’ The second time around I was pushing myself toward that next level.”
Hauck went undrafted by the NFL but played 13 years in the league.
The ’74-75 Griz
The Grizzlies nearly played David to UCLA’s Goliath at Portland’s Memorial Coliseum, losing 67-64 despite 32 points from Eric Hays.
UCLA led 33-32 at halftime and never trailed after that, but Hays and Co. – Canadian-born center Ken McKenzie, who had 20 points and 10 rebounds, and a freshman backup named Micheal Ray Richardson – never backed down.
The Grizzlies went 21-8 that year and earned their first NCAA berth. It was memorable mainly because of Hays, a 6-3, first team all-Big Sky guard who was playing near his hometown of Junction City, Ore.
“I don’t think we were afraid of them,” he said. “I do remember the Wednesday before the game we got to Portland and the practice session. UCLA practiced before us. We got to the facility and I distinctly remember dressing quickly so we could go out and watch them, and just see them in action.
Normally you don’t have that kind of feeling, but this was UCLA.”
UCLA held on behind 16 points from Richard Washington and Pete Trogovich, and went on to win its 10th NCAA title in 12 seasons. It turned out to be John Wooden’s final season as coach.
But Hays hadn’t seen the last of Wooden, who died in 2010 at the age of 99. Years after the game Hays and Wooden crossed paths at a coaching clinic, and some years later – around 2003 – Hays took Wooden up on an invitation to visit if his family made it to California.
Hays thought the visit would last a few minutes, but it turned into five hours. Wooden rode shotgun and guided the family to his favorite restaurant. He read poetry, told stories and served them lemon custard at his home.
“It was an incredible experience,” Hays said. “I didn’t think my kids would want to listen to a 93-year-old man. My kids were totally mesmerized. They sat on the edges of their seats.”
Recruited out of Eagle River, Alaska, Morris was a senior in 1993 and had finished second in the 3,000 at the Big Sky Indoor Championships that year with a time of 8 minutes, 34.69 seconds.
In first was his UM teammate, Clint Morrison, at 8:34.39.
But Morris, who did win the Big Sky’s 5,000 and mile titles his senior year, still qualified for the NCAA Indoor Championships with a time of 8:06.11 run earlier that indoor season.
At the now-demolished Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis, he ran the race of his life, moving from third to first on the final two laps of the 200-meter track. He clocked 8:04.17.
“I guess it’s kind of surreal,” said Morris, whose performance is the 50th greatest moment in Big Sky history. “I felt like if I ran that race 100 times, I’d win 10 or 20. Everything just kind of came together.
“A teammate told me if I won I had to do something cool. I didn’t want to hold the finger up like everyone does, so I leaped across the line. The picture was in the program and there is a plaque with it in the UM Hall of Fame. It looks like I’m triple jumping or something.”
Morris, an assistant track and field coach at Carroll College, was the only Big Sky athlete to win an NCAA indoor title until 2007.
“It was great to win the 3,000 meters,” he said. “Most of the time you don’t win, especially at the higher levels, so it was nice to finish first. It is pretty cool to be the (Grizzlies’) only indoor champion, but at the same time I would like to think that others would be able to compete at the national level. I always wanted to compete at the national level. I felt that competing at the highest level should be a goal of every program.”