The NCAA released the findings from its 18-month-long investigation into the University of Montana's football program last friday, and the much-anticipated announcement included fairly minimal penalties. The Griz will spend the next three years on probation, vacate wins from the 2011 season and lose a handful of scholarships, while former head coach Robin Pflugrad—now the offensive coordinator for Weber State—will be suspended from coaching the first game of his 2013 football season.
The apparent close of this rough three-year chapter in UM football history drew mixed responses from those close to the issue. Former Athletic Director Jim O'Day, who was fired in March 2012, told the Missoulian "there's so much more to the story." Until that story comes out, he added, the NCAA's findings are "kind of a disappointment."
Pflugrad, who was fired at the same time as O'Day, also alluded to another side of the story. In particular, he spoke about what happened when Trumaine Johnson and Gerald Kemp were arrested and Tased in October 2011 for a string of charges that included obstructing a police officer. The NCAA says UM erred by letting a booster bail the players out of jail and by Pflugrad not reporting the incident to the appropriate higher-ups.
"If you read through the NCAA (report), I did have concerns that there was the possibility of some civil rights violations that did exist," Pflugrad told Ogden, Utah's Standard-Examiner about the Johnson and Kemp arrests. "My concern was to control the emotions of my minority players and my minority coaching staff."
Pflugrad went on to tell the paper there was never any intention to hide anything from the university's compliance department. "It was just down on the totem pole because of all the other things that were going on with these mitigating circumstances," he said. "It was somewhat like a war zone at the time. The minute I knew none of our coaches had bailed players out, I moved on from that."
Speaking of moving on, most of Griz Nation would prefer to do just that when it comes to all of the recent problems. UM President Royce Engstrom said as much in a statement that declared the NCAA's report "an end to this chapter in UM's history." Athletic Director Kent Haslam echoed the sentiment in his own announcement, proclaiming UM has "emerged stronger and more focused."
Perhaps, but if the past three years have taught us anything, it's that clear endings are hard to come by. Jury verdicts, community forums, press conferences, pep rallies, different investigation reports—each has come and gone with the same false promise of closure. This chapter isn't over, especially not with some key players still waiting for the full story to be revealed.