It's been a day of shock and disbelief for Griz Nation after it was announced Thursday afternoon that head football coach Robin Pflugrad and Athletic Director Jim O'day have been dismissed from their roles at the University of Montana.
"I actually heard it this morning through one of the guys on the team. And I was a little surprised to be honest with you," said former Griz starting kicker Brody McKnight. "I didn't see that one coming. I didn't think they were going to fire them you know. But that is how it goes. You know it is a business and sometimes people feel like changes need to be made and it happens. It's unfortunate though because Robin Pflugrad is a real good man."
It wasn't until 12:44 this afternoon that it became official. That's when UM President Royce Engstrom said in a news release that the school had "determined not to renew the contracts of Athletics Director Jim O'Day and head football coach Robin Pflugrad."
He added that the University will announce an interim Athletic Director and interim Head Coach by the end of the week.
Pflugrad just finished up his second season as head coach, and by the numbers he's been successful. He had a record of 18-7 in his two years at the helm. He led Montana to the FCS semifinals last season and was named the 2011 Big Sky Conference coach of the year.
"As players, they just need to stay focused on what they have to do," said former Offensive lineman Jon Opperud. "I mean some guys are going to have to step up and become leaders. And they can't let outside things distract them. You know it's the players' team and it's up to them to make the best of it."
All of this is coming at a very difficult time as we're less than two weeks into spring camp. Today the players were notified about Pflugrad's dismissal in a 2:30 meeting but players and staff have been quiet about the firings. Former players were quick to give the current squad some advice on the situation.
"If I was going to say anything it would be know that this program is going to fight through it," said former Grizzly and current Tennessee Titan Marc Mariani. "Know that around the country it doesn't get much better than Griz Nation. You know maybe it's been a little bit forgotten... but don't forget about the front of the jersey man. You come there to play in Griz Nation and for Montana. I hope that hasn't been lost because when I was there that's all that really mattered was the front of the jersey."