Stitt out as Grizzly head coach


MISSOULA, Mont. - The University of Montana has decided not to renew the contract of third-year head coach Bob Stitt following his second straight loss to rival Montana State University.

"We have got high expectations here and there is no doubt about that," said University of Montana athletic director Kent Haslam. "We owe that to a very loyal and supportive fan base and we owe that to this University."

He finished with a 21-14 record at the helm of the Griz program, including a 14-10 mark in Big Sky Conference play and a 1-2 record against the Bobcats.

Stitt started his first season off with a bang, leading the Grizzlies to a 38-35 home upset of No. 1 North Dakota State, the four-time defending national champions.

Montana finished the 2015 regular season with an 8-4 record, including a 6-2 record against the Big Sky. The Grizzlies ended conference play by beating defending league champion Eastern Washington 57-16 at home, and then defeating Montana State 54-35 in Bozeman.

UM finished in a tie for second place in the Big Sky, and was selected to participate in the FCS Playoffs. The Griz defeated South Dakota State 24-17 in a first round home game, but then lost a rematch with North Dakota State in Fargo by a score of 37-6.

Stitt and the Grizzlies started the next season with a 5-1 record. But Montana petered out, losing four of its final five games, including a 24-17 loss to the Bobcats in Missoula.

The team finished 2016 with a 6-5 record, and a 3-5 mark in the Big Sky Conference. The Griz ended up missing the playoffs for the first time since 2010.

This season, UM finished with a 7-4 record and went 5-3 in the league. But once again, the Grizzlies lost to the Bobcats, as Montana State defeated them 31-23 in Bozeman.

The loss ultimately doomed Montana's playoff chances, as the Griz missed the playoffs in two straight years for the first time since 1991-92.

Haslam said at Monday's press conference he had not had any conversations with any potential head coaching candidates.

"We need to get that toughness back, that swagger," he said. We need to be winning conference championships, we need to be going to the playoffs. Those are things that are critical to us as an athletic department and they are valuable to our University and valuable to this community."

He added the University will work to fill the coaching position as quickly as possible, but did not offer a time table for when a new coach would be hired.