While University of Montana athletic director Kent Haslam refused to talk about potential candidates for the Grizzlies’ next football coach Monday, a solid group has emerged as possible successors to the retiring Mick Delaney.
Highly placed sources who are supporters of the university say there are four leaders for the job, including former coach Bobby Hauck and current Eastern Washington coach Beau Baldwin.
Baldwin and the fourth-ranked Eastern Eagles host the No. 12 Grizzlies Saturday in an NCAA Division I football second-round playoff game. Hauck, who coached the Grizzlies from 2003-09, recently resigned as head coach at UNLV.
Former Griz quarterback and offensive coordinator Brent Pease, who is now receivers coach at Washington, and current Griz defensive coordinator Ty Gregorak fill out the list.
The sources spoke on condition of anonymity. Haslam, meanwhile, said he had no group of finalists and that he was still canvassing potential head coaches.
“Right now the goal is to get in front of as many people as I can,” said UM’s third-year AD. “The goal is not to find a finalist.
“I see it playing out more like the men’s basketball coaching search. That’s the way I’m most comfortable.”
Haslam said little or nothing about finding a potential replacement for Wayne Tinkle until 12 days after Tinkle was hired by Oregon State. Travis DeCuire was announced as UM’s coach on May 31.
“I’d rather spend a little more time on the front end of this,” Haslam said. “I want to move as quickly as possible but I always want to take as long as I need to get the right person.”
Delaney is 24-13 heading into Saturday’s game, which kicks off at 2:30 p.m. Mountain time in Cheney. He replaced Robin Pflugrad on an interim basis during spring drills in 2012.
Baldwin has run up a 66-24 record in seven seasons at Eastern, including a victory over Delaware for the 2010 FCS title.
Hauck went 80-17 at Montana and took his teams to three FCS title games (2004, 2008-09) before heading to UNLV following the Grizzlies’ 23-21 loss in the 2009 championship. He went just 15-48 with the Rebels, and announced his resignation on the eve of their 29-27 loss to Nevada last week.
Pease, who starred at QB for Don Read’s first team at Montana, has been offensive coordinator for the Griz (1996-98), Kentucky (2001-02), Baylor (2003-05), Boise State (2011) and Florida (2012-13). He rejoined former Boise State coach Chris Petersen at Washington this past spring.
Gregorak is a former Colorado linebacker who became UM’s defensive coordinator in 2012. He was on Hauck’s staff at UM, and also coached at Central Washington before coming back to Montana under then-coach Robin Pflugrad.
The next two weeks could be interesting. Either UM or EWU will still be in the playoffs a week from now; Hauck has reportedly big support from major Montana donors; Pease was in the running when Pflugrad was hired in 2010; and Gregorak’s wife may be in the hunt for Montana’s vacant head volleyball position. Kandice Gregorak has been a volleyball assistant at UM from 2007-09 and the past three seasons.
The list still might include CSU-Pueblo’s John Wristen, though one source was more familiar with Lance Leipold, and confirmed the Wisconsin-Whitewater coach's initial interest in the Grizzlies. Leipold was named head coach at the University of Buffalo on Sunday.
Scott Gragg, currently the associate head coach and co-offensive coordinator at UM, has also been mentioned.
Haslam denied rumors that candidates have already flown into Missoula for interviews.
“There’s not been anybody who’s come to town,” Haslam said Monday. “I’ve done everything either going other places or over the phone.”
“I’ve talked to potential candidates, I’ve talked to former head coaches for advice, I’ve talked to current head coaches at other places and to athletic directors at other places. I hate to put a number on potential candidates.”
Fritz Neighbor can be reached at 523-5247 or @Fritz_Neighbor on Twitter.