Missoula Story of the Week: University of Montana Athletics
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By TOM DIDDEL
Ten days after the University of Montana Grizzlies started their spring football practices, news came that at least one of the team’s members will not be joining them on the field come fall.
In a meeting scheduled for Thursday morning, University President Royce Engstrom told Grizzly football coach Robin Pflugrad and athletic director Jim O’Day that their contracts with the institution were terminated.
The decision came as a surprise to associate athletic director Dave Guffey, who was “shocked” and left in “disbelief”, according to a Missoulian interview. Guffey also speculated the move could “have major negative ramifications on Grizzly athletics and Grizzly football for a long time to come.”
The executive director of the Grizzly Scholarship Association, Greg Sundberg was also stunned by the news, stating that, “It’s a big surprise to everybody.”
Pflugrad, who was hired as the University of Montana’s head coach in 2010 has seen his team and the university reeling over numerous accusations of sexual assaults involving players and non-players over the last several months.
Community outcries over the incidents and how they have been handled by administrators have left university officials struggling to get a handle on a situation that seems more and more out of control every week.
The most recent accusation has involved quarterback Jordan Johnson, who was accused of raping another university student. A temporary restraining order against Johnson was replaced by a civil no-contact order last Friday, according to a Missoulian report.
Johnson was originally ordered to sit out spring drills, in accordance with the newly revamped Student-Athlete Conduct Code.
However, the decision to allow him to return to practice after the restraining order against him was replaced last week left the plaintiff’s attorney upset over how the university interpreted the agreement.
Josh Van de Wetering, the accuser’s legal counsel, stated in a letter to Jean Gee, the university’s senior associated athletic director that, “the Athletic Department’s decision to reinstate Mr. Johnson is based at least in part on your misunderstanding of the legal process against Mr. Johnson.”
This was reported in the Missoulian, which also received a copy of the letter. Wetering reminded Gee that quarterback Jordan Johnson is still being actively investigated for rape.
The alleged rape involving Grizzly quarterback Jordan Johnson is just the most recent string of investigations surrounding the University of Montana. Football player Beau Donaldson is also facing a rape trial in which he has pled not guilty.
Donaldson, who is accused of raping a woman in September of last year, is still awaiting trial in the case, according to a KPAX news story.
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