The Retirement of a Griz Legend

Today, a legendary sports information director announced his retirement. After 37 years as the SID for Grizzly Athletics, Dave Guffey will conclude his tenure on June 30. The University of Montana will never be the same.

Affectionately referred to as “Guff,” the name is and forever will be synonymous with GRIZ. For the better half of my own stint with Grizzly Athletics, I had the distinct privilege of working right next door to the legend. Although it took some time for me to earn his respect, we developed a wonderful working relationship. The personal friendship was just as nice.

Dave Guffey with the Big Sky Conference championship trophy after the men's basketball team clinched a spot in the NCAA Tournament in 2012.

Dave Guffey with the Big Sky Conference championship trophy after the men’s basketball team clinched a spot in the NCAA Tournament in 2012.

With the role that I held, Dave and I worked closely each day. He would give me daily notices on all releases he would send out. He routinely asked me to proof his work (a huge honor for me). He would never leave me in the dark on anything. If I had a question about the sports industry or wanted clarification about something that was happening in the department, he would always fill me in. He always made sure I was taken care of when it came to credentials for away events. He graciously would single me out in meetings, both ones where I was present and wasn’t present, for a job well done. He would always stick up for me.

For everything that he gave me, I tried to do what I could to pay him back at least a little bit. I helped him out with website graphics, filled him in on breaking news that came out via the digital avenue, set him up with social media accounts, and gave him crash courses on topics such as Photoshop and Twitter. Light stuff compared to what he did on my behalf.

Dave up in the press box just this past spring serving as the public address announcer for one of the spring football scrimmages.

Dave up in the press box just this past spring serving as the public address announcer for one of the spring football scrimmages.

Dave taught me a lot too. With just a wall separating us, I observed a lot and learned a lot. I learned about media relations. I learned about long hours. I learned about accuracy. I learned about pressure. I learned about people who think they are always owed tickets or a credential. I learned about the intricacies of being the point person for nationally recognized football and men’s basketball programs. I learned that the job of a sports information director doesn’t just revolve around writing game recaps.

You know, some people might say that Guff could be a hard-ass. Well, if you are a sports information director for an athletic department such as Montana you kind of have to put up that front. But the truth is, Dave Guffey is one of the kindest, warmest, most loyal people you will meet. Remember how above I said that beyond the working relationship there was a friendship?

I fondly remember our many talks on the sidelines during football practices both about sports and not about sports. I look back and smile at the various nights where we got to share cocktails together. I remember late nights after basketball games in the office with us bantering back and forth. I remember the unwavering support he gave me when I moved on from Grizzly Athletics. I remember even the little things such as how well he treated my visitors who came by the office to the $50 gift card he gave me to the Montana Club at Christmas. They don’t come much classier than Guff.

Dave and I watched the conclusion of a Griz basketball road game in his office during the 2013-14 season.

Dave and I watched the conclusion of a Griz basketball road game in his office during the 2013-14 season.

When the day comes for Dave Guffey to be enshrined into the Grizzly Sports Hall of Fame I hope I am there. I want to hear his speech, see his plaque, and witness all of the past coaches/players/administrators who attend it. Mostly though, I want to attend the killer party that I know will follow.

Enjoy the last several months on the job, Dave. You have meant a lot to me and helped shape who I am as a professional. Don’t Blink.

Not Your Typical Rags to Riches Story

If you will, please excuse me from my weekly Thursday night rapid fire rundown of random topics to quickly focus on a much more meaningful issue.

Today via the website Outsports.com, a guy named Kenny Dow wrote a piece about coming out as a gay man in the very masculine and testosterone driven industry of athletics. He chronicled his childhood and early professional career living in ultra conservative Montana where he didn’t feel the slightest bit comfortable revealing his true self. You would have thought that as he grew older and more established in the Big Sky state it would have made it easier to share with others his sexual orientation. Not so. Working inside probably the most visible, scrutinized, and tradition ridden office in the state, the University of Montana Athletics Department, Kenny didn’t feel comfortable. When an awesome job opportunity came his way, he got out.

Let me introduce you to Kenny Dow (photo courtesy of outsports.com)

Let me introduce you to Kenny Dow (photo courtesy of outsports.com)

During the last year of his tenure at Grizzly Athletics, Kenny (along with Christie Anderson), served as my mentor(s). As a young intern in the marketing department I looked up to my bosses. I had such an amazing year learning about the business and having an absolute blast. A friendship grew between Kenny and I, one that would really only get stronger as we lived hundreds (and now thousands) of miles apart. When Kenny did announce his departure from Grizzly Athletics I put on hold a fully paid graduate school opportunity to do everything I could to get his job. Stars aligned and I was successful and for my whole time at Grizzly Athletics I poured every ounce of my being toward trying to equal the contributions Kenny made during the time he sat in my chair.

All people in this photo used to have an association with Grizzly Athletics. We were all in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, for a UCA camp. Christie is on the far left and Kenny and I on the right.

All people in this photo used to have an association with Grizzly Athletics. We were all in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, for a UCA camp. Christie is on the far left and Kenny and I on the right.

As the marketing director in the Portland State Athletics Department, Kenny turned everything about that place around. He took it from absolutely nothing to an award winning, prideful marketing program. His professional accomplishments at Portland State will go down as nothing short of spectacular. Don’t kid yourself though, the most significant accomplishment during his time in the Rose City wasn’t a professional one…it was a personal one. Encouraged by the openly gay women’s basketball coach Sherri Murrell to be himself, Kenny no longer hid who he was. Portland State accepted him and Kenny couldn’t have felt more comfortable.

Kenny and I in Missoula at the end of 2010.

Kenny and I in Missoula at the end of 2010.

At around the same time I left for Coastal Carolina, Kenny also left for a different job. Taking another giant leap up the ladder, he took an executive position with the Seattle Storm of the WNBA. Besides now making big marketing decisions for a professional sports team Kenny also gets to make big strides for the LGBT community. The WNBA has launched a large campaign to embrace its gay fan base and Kenny has an instrumental part in executing it. You got to think about this for a couple seconds: A guy who once worked in a place where he felt he couldn’t even come out is now an openly gay executive for a pro team playing an integral part in a national LGBT campaign. Not bad.

Kenny and I in Missoula. We are now literally as far away from each other as you can get in this country,

Kenny and I in Missoula. We are now literally as far away from each other as you can get in this country,

I am so proud of what Kenny has done both for others and himself. I am also extremely proud to say that he mentored me and has had a major impact on my professional career. You keep succeeding, good sir. Don’t Blink.

To Everyone at Grizzly Athletics: THANK YOU

Earlier today I walked out of the Adams Center for the final time, ending an almost five year ride with Grizzly Athletics. I like to think I left a small part of me behind. With the long hours I worked and the contributions I made I hope I left the department better than when I arrived. But this blog post is not about me (By the way, for all I know my employers could have thrown a celebration party after my car drove out of the parking lot). Rather, this post is to say thank you to the people who supported me, helped me, and listened to me. It is to show gratitude to those individuals who believed in me and let me grow. It is to recognize my co-workers and bosses who helped make me look good and who always took my best interests to heart.

First and foremost I want to thank Christie Anderson. She hired me, she believed in me, she mentored me. Without Christie I would not be where I am at today. I learned everything I know about marketing in intercollegiate athletics from her. For over a year before we got more suitable offices I sat behind Christie and observed everything she did. What an awesome learning experience! I have so many memories with Christie whether it be going on trips, working games, or doing things totally unrelated to work such as going to concerts or bowling.

Next up I want to thank Jim O’Day. My first role model in the college athletics world he treated me with so much respect and kindness. He knew about the power of social media long before many other college administrators even knew what the phrase meant and he gave me the green light to take Grizzly Athletics full throttle down the new media avenue. Two years ago on that terrible day when he had the rug pulled out from underneath him I will never forget the address he gave us at the hastily called all-staff meeting. He epitomized class and humility in a very dark moment and that will always stay with me.

I owe so much gratitude to Brynn Molloy. She came into the Marketing Director position and just kicked butt. Definitely one of the most positive people I know I had a wonderful ten months working for her. We had such a solid working relationship based on collaboration and respect. She was there for me and I was there for her. She allowed me to continue to do my thing and always took the time to tell me good job. We came in each morning on fire for Grizzly Athletics and it made for a great work environment. It is no secret why everyone loves Brynn.

I don’t think I had a bigger supporter when it came to getting me to where I wanted to be than Greg Sundberg. Besides being the best leader I know, no one took the time to help me reach my goals more than Greg. He cares so much about his employees and brings the same positivity to the office each day in the same way Brynn does. I said Jim was my first role model in college athletics; after Greg started overseeing all external communications a couple years ago he became my second. “Sunny” played a big role in getting me to where I am now.

Then there is Kent Haslam…the third person I identify as a role model of mine in intercollegiate athletics. I was so happy and relieved when he got hired as our athletic director. You would be hard pressed to find someone with greater integrity than Kent. Over the past couple years he has been a great supporter of mine. Always sending recognition my way and 100% supportive of my decision to go to Coastal Carolina I feel very fortunate that our AD cared so much about me. Grizzly Athletics is in great hands.

Thank you to our sports information staff! I had the opportunity to work very closely with our legendary SID, Dave Guffey. I earned Dave’s respect and he treated me like a son. I will miss him a lot. I also feel like I got a lot from Joel Carlson (Assistant SID). No one writes better than Joel and I had the pleasure of reading award winning material from his desk on a daily basis. I know by paying attention to his techniques and style that it made me a better writer myself. Rounding out the staff is Renee Valley who never ceased to lend a helping hand when it came to making a few more credentials or helping me find something in the archive room.

I owe big thank yous to the people who generated much of the great content that I was able to use on our new media outlets to give our fan base a great experience. Nate Michael (Griz Vision producer) is an extremely talented individual and one of the best guys I know. Todd Goodrich (University of Montana photographer) works magic with the lens and pours a lot of his time into covering athletics. Jerek Wolcott (videographer, now at Idaho State) really started the video tradition at Grizzly Athletics and was a great friend of mine.

Thank you to our genius I.T. man, Aaron Heiner. This guy gave me a new perspective on what it is like to work under pressure. He also bailed me out of numerous situations involving technology on game days. Speaking of smart people, I couldn’t have succeeded at my job without the help of Chuck Maes. That man has a computer for a brain with incredible knowledge on how every device and piece of equipment under the name of Grizzly Athletics works. . Just like with Aaron, Chuck has helped me out many times when I needed quick assistance.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my office mate, Paul Hengel. Paul became a great friend of mine and provided me an example each day of what hard work is all about. No one works harder in the department or has more demanded of him than Mr. Paul. We got along great and our office arrangement couldn’t have worked out any better.

Much appreciation to Heather Alexander (business manager) who showed great patience towards me when I asked stupid questions or accidentally went away from protocol when completing a business transaction. I also am very thankful for how much she has made my transition between jobs easier. Heather, you better make good on your plans to visit Myrtle Beach during the summer of 2015!

Then there are just the people who have supported me so much during my time with Grizzly Athletics. I am talking about people like Janie Haight, Sue DeMers, Cyndi Steigers, and Celine Fisher. They have acted as moms to me and supported me since I have stepped foot in the Adams Center. I was overjoyed when my “Montana Moms” got to meet my real mom at my going-away party late last week.

I don’t want to forget about the coaches. I learned a lot about the crazy lives they live full of pressure, stress, and travel. Take it from me right here: Our “Big Three” head coaches (Robin Selvig, Wayne Tinkle, and Mick Delaney) are absolutely class acts. They are passionate for the Griz and are incredibly kind. Each one of those men took time to congratulate me when I announced that I was moving on. Special shout out to Griz softball coach Jamie Pinkerton who became a good friend of mine. I am sad that I will miss the first pitch in 2015. Also thank you to soccer head coach Mark Plakorus who always took time to talk to me and even attended my going-away party.

Finally, thank you to all the students I had the privilege of working with over the years. From our student-athletes to our Spirit Squad to our team of interns to our mascots I felt so fortunate working a job where I got to interact with young and motivated individuals on a daily basis. In the end my ultimate mission was to serve them and I felt so lucky that I was able to do just that.

The chapter is closed. I now move onto the next stage of my life at Coastal Carolina. However, I will always be indebted to the wonderful people at Grizzly Athletics who gave me my start. Please know I hold all of you in very high regard. THANK YOU. Don’t Blink.

Tonight’s Spring Game: My Last Hurrah in Washington-Grizzly Stadium

I am praying right now that the current Missoula sunshine will stick around through this evening. Tonight Washington-Grizzly Stadium will host the 2014 Griz Football Spring Game and let’s just say that I rather have our fans treated to pleasant spring conditions rather than the forecasted rain and wind that is supposed to come. No matter, one thing I have learned in my almost five years with Grizzly Athletics is that our fan base will come out despite the conditions. However, I just want to see them as comfortable as possible.

We have a lot planned for tonight. At 4 p.m. the Grizzly Scholarship Association will host a tailgate in Lot W, located at the south stadium entrance. At 5 p.m. a kids’ clinic will be held on the Washington-Grizzly Stadium turf as the coaching staff will give the young ones plenty of opportunities to show what they got. At 6 p.m. the Spring Game will kick off. Although a scoring system foreign to most people will be in force (you can read about it here) it will still be very much structured like a game, a good thing for fans who want to see action that will mirror what they will see during Saturdays this fall. After the game the team will hold an autograph session under the lights on the field.

Brynn, Kristen, and I with our marketing interns in the Control Room during the 2013 season. Tonight will be my last time working in this cramped, and sometimes stressful, space.

Brynn, Kristen, and I with our marketing interns in the Control Room during the 2013 season. Tonight will be my last time working in this cramped, and sometimes stressful, space.

Tonight’s festivities will mark my last time ever climbing the wooden stairs of the press box and performing my duties in the control room. After working 36 home football games plus the Spring Game in 2012, this will be my last hurrah. I am fortunate that I will get to work and sit/stand next to Dave Guffey and Brynn Molloy, two Griz staffers who I have had the pleasure of working with during my entire tenure at Grizzly Athletics. After five seasons I will appropriately take in the gorgeous view I have enjoyed and the special role I have served one final time. If you are in Missoula, rain or shine, come down to Washington-Grizzly Stadium for tonight’s Spring Game. I would love to see you there. Don’t Blink.

My Top Ten Best Moments Working For Grizzly Athletics

I have just one week remaining at the University of Montana and I can’t help but think of all the wonderful moments I have had the privilege of taking part in or helping directly with during my tenure. Tonight I want to reflect on some of the times I will never forget while serving the Montana Grizzlies. I give you my top ten moments working for Grizzly Athletics:

10. 2013 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament: After experiencing the men’s tourney the year prior, I got the opportunity to attend the Women’s NCAA Tournament when the Lady Griz qualified for the Big Dance in 2013. Serving as the Pep Band/Spirit Squad contact while also covering all facets of the trip for our social media audience I enjoyed my time in Spokane at Gonzaga University. Although the Lady Griz ended up falling to powerhouse Georgia they put up a great fight and I got to watch all the action from under the basket.

I snapped this photo of the team at the practice session at Gonzaga the day before the game.

I snapped this photo of the team at the practice session at Gonzaga the day before the game.

9. NACMA Retreat: During the summer of 2012 the University of Montana had the distinction of hosting the National Association of Collegiate Marketing Administrators Board of Directors retreat. Former Marketing Director Christie Anderson worked her way up to a prestigious spot on the NACMA Board of Directors and spearheaded a successful campaign for the hosting opportunity. She let me come along to beautiful Whitefish, Montana, where the retreat was held and help out with the three day event. I had the opportunity to network with the best intercollegiate athletic marketers in the country. Listening to their ideas and challenges provided me with a wonderful learning and development opportunity.

I hung around these intercollegiate athletics marketers for a few days

I hung around these intercollegiate athletics marketers for a few days

8. 2013 Home Opener Against Appalachian State: In what would be my last football season for the Griz, our home opener was truly memorable. After much buildup to a brand new fan experience in Washington-Grizzly Stadium our advertising did not disappoint as the game went perfectly. All of our planning, brainstorming, and hard work paid off as everything from the sky divers to the Monte entrance to the fireworks to all the intricacies of our protocol went off without a hitch. And oh yeah, on a gorgeous night under the lights our football team steamrolled Appalachian State, 30-6.

My brother and dad got to come over for this great game. After the game I went on the field with them to get a picture.

My brother and dad got to come over for this great game. After the game I went on the field with them to get a picture.

7. The Roots of “United”: After our athletic director and head football coach were let go completely out of the blue in March of 2012 the Missoula community was in crisis mode as people reacted to the news in a variety of different ways. As the dialogue started to get very volatile and as the national media started to converge the young men on the Griz football team gave all of us a true example of what class and restraint is all about. The team provided us with a letter that we posted on www.gogriz.com that gave a nod to their former leaders, took responsibility for the allegations, promised to hold themselves to higher standards, and asked the community to stick with them. At the conclusion of the letter it stated that with or without that community support they would come back stronger than ever. They certainly did.

6. Montana Grizzlies Facebook Page Reaches 100K Likes: In a major milestone for the Griz Social Media program, our department’s official Facebook page went over 100,000 likes in early March of 2014. In a league completely above anyone else in the Big Sky Conference and the FCS, this mark validated the emphasis our department had placed on social media and provided just another example of why Griz Nation has some of the best fans in the country.

5. A Memorable 2013-14 Lady Griz Basketball Season: Although the 2013-14 Montana women’s basketball team did not advance to the NCAA Tournament I will still remember it very fondly for a couple reasons. First there was Robin Selvig’s 800th win. The celebration that ensued with him and his team followed by Coach Selvig’s humorous and touching speech will forever stay with me. Secondly, the two games we got to host for the WNIT were so much fun. The team played their hearts out and our fan base truly showed up to support them as much as possible. Although I really wish the Lady Griz would have picked up the win against San Diego I will just remember the noise level in the arena and the feeling inside of me that our players and fans truly valued the post season opportunity they were given.

I hope somewhere this speech is recorded (photo courtesy of the great Todd Goodrich).

I hope somewhere this speech is recorded (photo courtesy of the great Todd Goodrich).

4. 2009 Appalachian State Snow Game Semi-Final: This game goes down as the most memorable game ever inside of Washington-Grizzly Stadium. Besides the national television audience, the snow, the lights, and the big time victory to advance to the national championship it was also a breakout game for me as the stadium DJ. As a brand new employee for Grizzly Athletics tasked with the big job of running music at the football games, I was always nervous come game time. However, after that game my nerves seemed to permanently go away. Mostly because of the atmosphere that night everything I sent through the stadium speakers seemed to work. Music traditions were born that evening and it was the only time I ever played music postgame at a football event as fans stayed long after to party on the snowy Washington-Grizzly Stadium turf.

3. Griz Demolish Montana State in Bozeman in 2011: During the football season of 2011, the Griz-Cat game was held in Bobcat Stadium with Montana State boasting an undefeated record in Big Sky Conference play. No one gave Montana a chance. It was supposed to be some type of formality for the Bobcats to win and celebrate with the Brawl of the Wild trophy. Are you kidding me? The Griz used the disrespect to kick the tar out of Montana State from the get-go. Early third quarter the fans inside Bobcat Stadium were literally leaving. When the final horn sounded Montana had sealed the victory 36-10 and at the time secured another Big Sky Conference championship. Vacated or not, standing on the sidelines for that game was the sweetest moment I have had as a Griz.

Christie and I during the half at the 2011 Brawl of the Wild Griz-Cat game.

Christie and I during the half at the 2011 Brawl of the Wild Griz-Cat game.

2. Griz and Lady Griz Go Dancing on Same Day Under Same Roof: Just the buildup in general to March 16, 2013 was an awesome moment all in itself. Grizzly Athletics had the pleasure of hosting both the men’s and women’s basketball Big Sky Conference tournaments last year. As I worked every single one of those tournament games I kept telling myself how lucky I was to have the opportunity to be a part of something like this. To get to the final day and realize that we very well could send both our teams to the premier college basketball tournaments in the nation made me know that an already awesome experience could get even better. Boy, did it.

With fireworks going off pregame and confetti falling from the rafters after, the game presentation we put together was almost as good as the play of our teams. The Lady Griz defeated Northern Colorado and the Griz took down Weber State as both Montana basketball programs punched tickets to the Big Dance on the same day on their home floor. Not only had both our basketball teams pulled it off but our staff had pulled it off as well in providing quality tournaments that you don’t see at other conference schools. Along with the 2013 Griz football home opener, I had never been more proud of the experience afforded to fans that day.

March 16, 2013 will never be forgotten in the history of Grizzly Athletics.

March 16, 2013 will never be forgotten in the history of Grizzly Athletics.

1. 2012 NCAA Tournament: By far one of the best experiences of my entire life, getting to travel with the Griz basketball team to Albuquerque for the 2012 NCAA Tournament earns the #1 spot on my list for top moments while at Grizzly Athletics. NCAA Tourneys are so special in general but to have the opportunity to be front and center as a participating institution takes it to a whole different level. I had the opportunity to cover the tournament for our social media outlets and gogriz.com. I got to attend the practice with the team. I enjoyed a tour of The Pit. I volunteered my services passing out tickets to the people on the travel party. I watched the game courtside with Christie and our dance team coach.

But you know what? Besides the responsibilities strictly related to the tournament I also got to have a lot of fun. I soaked in the refreshing Albuquerque sun, ate the best Mexican food I had ever had, stayed in a super nice hotel, toured the town, and had the best time with my co-workers. What an amazing experience!

Monte and I before we went out on the court for the 2012 NCAA Tournament.

Monte and I before we went out on the court for the 2012 NCAA Tournament.

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I am so indebted to Grizzly Athletics for these special moments that I will carry with me forever. I will reflect on them now but in three weeks I will be totally committed to making new top moments and memories at Coastal Carolina University. Can’t wait to start building a new top ten list in the South! Don’t Blink.

Five Topics in Five Minutes

Well I am definitely due for a multi-topic, random blog post. Tonight I am feeling rather ambitious so I am going to attempt to cover five different happenings in as few of words as possible. Thanks for checking out my blog post tonight and let’s get started.

Bowling: Last night I spiced up my usually boring weekday evenings by going bowling. Would you believe that $1 bowling still exists? Believe me, at Westside Lane in Missoula it does! I did something I have never done before and bowled five games. Usually after two games I am good but with the cheap price and a score that needed to be settled between my friend and I we played 50 frames. Another thing that I have never done before? I bowled a 168! I am about 90% sure that qualifies as my highest score ever. The numerous games did take a toll though…this morning I woke up sore in a couple spots! I am definitely not in bowling shape.

Montana Grizzlies Facebook Hits 100K Likes: Right before I dashed out my door to go bowling last night our Montana Grizzlies Facebook page hit the 100,000 like mark. As I have eyed this milestone for a long time it felt great to finally reach it. Griz Social Media is shoulders above other competitors in the FCS and is a player on the national scene as well and this big benchmark just validates our success. Big winner of the night besides our athletic department was Facebook fan Amy Cody who correctly predicted the day and came the closest to predicting the time that our page would hit the hundred grand mark. Because of her excellent prognostic abilities I sent her a Griz prize pack today.

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370: I do find this whole saga fascinating but I find it much sadder. To me at first I can’t fathom how the plane has not been found. Then I take a step back and realize this world is a big place with the oceans covering over 140,000 million miles of it. Then throw in the twists and turns that occur daily in relation to the governments, theories, and searches and I can’t begin to imagine what the families of the passengers are going through. For some reason I think this ordeal might have a very crazy ending that a lot of us aren’t expecting. Only time will tell.

Subway…Eat Fresh?: I enjoy Subway so much that I actually wrote a whole blog post detailing how much I love it. Call me naïve for thinking it would always specialize in just sandwiches but I am a little turned off about the expanding menu. Pizza? Enchilada melts? Breakfast sandwiches that don’t resemble a sandwich in anyway? I understand that Subway must evolve and offer more options to keep up with competition I just think it is a little sacrilegious to offer a pepperoni pizza at a place that markets itself on healthy eating.

Putting on my Sports Information Director’s Hat: In just about a half hour our men’s basketball team faces off against Portland State in the Big Sky Conference tournament in Ogden. I am here in Missoula just about ready to cover the game over our social outlets but my duties will get a little extended this evening. As our legendary Sports Information Director Dave Guffey doesn’t have necessary software installed on his laptop I get to play with the program in his office and output all the statistical reports immediately after the final buzzer sounds. With a couple training sessions completed at the tutelage of Dave and a page of notes at my disposal I should be fine although I would be lying if I said I am not a little nervous about screwing everything up.

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Okay, time to watch our men’s basketball team play! I appreciate all of you and have a wonderful Friday. Don’t Blink.

Dominating Your Rival #GrizCat

Nothing beats defeating your rival. Well, let me rephrase that: Nothing beats defeating your rival over and over again.

Tonight both Montana basketball programs defeated Montana State, securing a season sweep resulting in a 4-0 combined record by the Griz and Lady Griz over the Bobcats this basketball season. It is a testament to blank a rival school on the hardwood, let alone the utter domination I am about to explain.

Besides just basketball, Grizzly teams this season went undefeated against Montana State in revenue-generating sports (football, volleyball, and basketball). With the two volleyball victories during the 2013 season and the BIG football win in November added with the 4-0 basketball record the Montana Grizzlies came out with a spotless 7-0 record against MSU.

Defeating Montana State in Bobcat Stadium this past November was definitely a sweet moment.

Defeating Montana State in Bobcat Stadium this past November was definitely a sweet moment.

But by no doubt the most satisfying exclamation point at the end of the #GrizCat rivalry came over this past weekend. With both the men’s and women’s indoor track and field teams finishing ahead of Montana State at the Big Sky Conference championships our athletic department wrapped up the title for the inaugural Blue Cross Blue Shield/Town Pump Brawl of the Wild year-long competition.

This is the nice piece of hardware we get to keep for defeating Montana State in a yearlong competition.

This is the nice piece of hardware we get to keep for defeating Montana State in a yearlong competition.

This athletic season the Griz and Bobcats entered into a competition that incorporated the 13 different sports that both schools have. I won’t get into all the small details but each time we face off against Montana State in a game or meet, points are at stake. There are 16 different competitions with 17 points up for grabs. By Saturday evening Grizzly Athletics had already reached the magic number of 9 thanks to the efforts of our indoor track teams.

Tonight the lead stretched even more. First the Lady Griz defeated Montana State in Bozeman. Then, just a couple minutes later the Griz dropped the Bobcats 53-50 here in Missoula. It was an awesome game to work with a loud and engaged crowd. When the clock read zeroes on the Dahlberg Arena scoreboard the other scoreboard keeping track of the year-long rivalry showed 11-2 in favor of the Maroon and Silver.

Although not the prettiest game tonight it was good enough to sweep the Cats in basketball this season.

Although not the prettiest game tonight it was good enough to sweep the Cats in basketball this season.

As I have said in previous blog posts, a healthy rivalry makes everyone work harder. I do all I can to make sure the areas I oversee triumph over the equivalent areas at MSU. My co-workers do the same. But in the end the ultimate victory is when our student-athletes dominate our friends from Bozeman. After all, this phenomenon called intercollegiate athletics is 100% about the student-athletes. Without them I wouldn’t have a job. Without them there would be a lot of people both young and old looking around for inspiration.

Congrats to our student-athletes for wrapping up the inaugural Brawl of the Wild year-long competition.

Congrats to our student-athletes for wrapping up the inaugural Brawl of the Wild year-long competition.

Congrats to all University of Montana student-athletes for really elevating Griz Nation in this state. What do you say we get those final four points still available in the competition? Go Griz! Don’t Blink.

Not A Fan of Snow Days

Today I awoke at 6:15 a.m. to an e-mail from campus communications informing the community that classes at the University of Montana had been cancelled due to the extreme and dangerous weather conditions. About fifteen minutes later our associate athletic director sent out an e-mail to all athletics staff saying there was no need to come to work today. Similar messages were relayed to most all other staff on campus as well.

Yes, a very rare snow day occurred in Missoula. I think the early morning deafening howls of wind proved the final factor to UM administrators to make the decision on an unscheduled three day weekend. They probably made the right choice.

In the past couple days Missoula has received several heavy snow showers. The white stuff has literally dumped into our valley. But most people who live in Montana can handle large amounts of snow, we deal with it six months out of the year. However the tipping factor was the wind. With gusts over 50 miles per hour and the truest whiteout conditions you could ever imagine I think most people understood and appreciated the closures and suspensions of services.

When I first heard about the news I rose from my bed and informed our social media audience of the closures. I then texted with my direct supervisor who confirmed that it was best to just stay home. A thought then ran through my head: “An unplanned weekday off? This is very strange.”

Not that I didn’t have plenty to do. I had a full agenda of work tasks that I had the full capability to complete right on my cozy couch. I also had a couple personal projects to work on as well. I also realized the perfect opportunity I had to clean around my apartment. So after taking a longer than normal shower I went right to work, keeping busy for several hours. However, even with my brain fully stimulated I still just had a very different feeling. It didn’t seem right sitting on my couch at 11 a.m. on a weekday. It didn’t seem right eating something other than my peanut butter sandwich for lunch that I always have at work. It didn’t seem right turning on ESPN and watching daily shows that I haven’t seen since I was a college student. It didn’t seem right (it actually wasn’t right) that I didn’t have the luxury to finish my week off with a great workout. It just didn’t seem right to be home.

I managed to get plenty of work done from home today but I didn't particularly like it.

I managed to get plenty of work done from home today but I didn’t particularly like it.

Although I know shutting down the town for the day was in the absolute best interest for the community I don’t care for the feeling I get with a free day off. I just feel like I am getting behind, I feel like I am slacking in a way. I feel like I haven’t earned it. With that said I worked hard today to fight that feeling and get as much done as possible. I believe I made progress so I won’t go to bed with too much disappointment. But would I have rather worked in the office today? You bet.

Kudos and respect to all the people out in the Missoula community right now plowing roads, delivering mail, picking up garbage, patrolling the streets, responding to accidents, etc. Also, thoughts and prayers to the people impacted by the avalanche today (yes, we had an avalanche this afternoon). The weather will get better and things will get back to normal…let’s just hope it is sooner rather than later. Don’t Blink.

What I Found Opening a 30 Year Old Media Guide

This morning I went to our archive room at Grizzly Athletics to find something fun for our #ThrowbackThursday Facebook feature. I opened up our file that contained men’s basketball guides dating back all the way to the 1950’s. Because of the glossy photo, scenic background, and incredibly cool/ugly warm ups I chose the publication from the 1984-85 Grizzly basketball season. But instead of just taking the photo, using the material, and then re-filing it I decided to open it up.

This is the 1984-85 Griz basketball media guide that I looked at today.

This is the 1984-85 Griz basketball media guide that I looked at today.

Talk about a history lesson! I found so many cool and interesting tidbits and images that I knew I would be absolutely remiss if I didn’t share some of the content through Don’t Blink. Even if you aren’t a Griz fanatic you will surely appreciate some of the names I am about to showcase. So give me your attention because class is in session! What do you say we travel back 30 years?

Big Time Coaches

The media guide contained some big deal coaches.

The media guide contained some big deal coaches.

The first thing that jumped out to me inside the pages? Legendary coaches! Coaching Montana at the time was Mike Montgomery who was serving his seventh season as the head man. He of course went on to coach at Stanford, in the NBA, and is now the coach of California. I had to do a double take when I saw the mug of Jim Calhoun smiling at me. Unbeknownst to me he coached at Northeastern State. The Redmen (nickname since changed to Riverhawks) traveled to Missoula over December 7 and 8 in 1984 to compete in the Champion Holiday Classic. Finally Don Monson caught my eye as well. Monson coached at both Idaho and Oregon and received National Coach of the Year honors in 1982. His son is Dan Monson. The Griz played his Oregon University team in Eugene on November 29.

Krystko

Larry Krystkowiak is a Montana basketball legend.

Larry Krystkowiak is a Montana basketball legend.

Gracing lots of space in the 1984-85 media guide was Larry Krystkowiak. Cementing his spot in Montana basketball by earning the Big Sky Conference Player of the Year award three different times he managed to add to that legacy even more by leading the Griz to NCAA Tournament appearances in his two seasons as head coach. In between playing and coaching for Montana he enjoyed a long career in the NBA as a player. After his successful run coaching the Griz the Milwaukee Bucks hired him as head coach. Currently he is leading the Pac-12 Utah Utes.

Bobby Hauck as a Basketball Manager?

Bobby Hauck dutifully served as a basketball manager during the 1984-85 season.

Bobby Hauck dutifully served as a basketball manager during the 1984-85 season.

When you think of Bobby Hauck you think of a successful head football coach with his own special swagger. Would you have ever thought that he once served as a basketball manager? During the 1984-85 season he did exactly that for the Griz basketball squad. Even though he coaches football you have to think Bobby took some pointers from Mike Montgomery to use during his career.

Coach Tinkle

Wayne Tinkle during his freshman year with Montana.

Wayne Tinkle during his freshman year with Montana.

Then you have the Sexiest Coach in College Basketball himself, Wayne Tinkle. One of my favorite people in the department and a very coveted coach, I enjoyed reading Wayne’s freshman profile (back when he had dark hair). In it he cites one of his hobbies as dancing. That definitely makes sense as he has taken the Griz basketball team to three NCAA Tournaments. I love Mike Montgomery’s quote: “If he’s willing to put in the time and effort to work he could be one of the most outstanding basketball players ever in our program”……mission accomplished.

Just for the Heck of It

The 1915 Griz basketball team

The 1915 Griz basketball team

How could I not include the 1915 Griz basketball team that was included on page 32 of the media guide?

Legends in the Athletic Department

Steve Hackney, Dennis Murphy, and Dave Guffey have devoted over 100 years of service combined to Grizzly Athletics.

Steve Hackney, Dennis Murphy, and Dave Guffey have devoted over 100 years of service combined to Grizzly Athletics.

To conclude I had to pay homage to a few legends in our athletic department who I saw in the program. I have worked with all three during my stint with Grizzly Athletics although two are now retired. Up top is Steve Hackney (“Hack”), our longtime equipment manager who retired a couple years ago. To the bottom left is Dennis Murphy, the head athletic trainer for over 30 years until his retirement last year. Finally in the bottom right you got my next door office neighbor and a man I work with a lot, Mr. Dave Guffey. As Dave himself created this media guide I don’t know why he threw himself at the back of the publication on orange paper but I imagine it is just his humble nature. Guff has served as the Sports Information Director for 37 years.

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I had an enjoyable time looking through this media guide.

I had an enjoyable time looking through this media guide.

Little did I know that I would learn so much and come up with a blog topic as I entered the archive room this morning. If there is one bigger lesson that comes out of this though it is that Grizzly Athletics has a storied and rich history and I am honored to be a very tiny part of it. Don’t Blink.

When Children Fear Mascots

Yesterday when I wrote about my top five favorite clowns I brought up the somewhat romanticized fear of clowns that adults claim to have. I don’t know if I necessarily buy into the claims of the roughly fifty percent of the people I know who say clowns cause them distress. In my opinion I think it is more talk than fear. Fact of the matter is adult brains can conceptualize that under the paint and wig of a scary looking clown is a regular man or woman. While some folks in our population have serious phobias of such stimuli I don’t believe it applies to the legions of people who make the claim.

Kids are a whole different story, especially younger ones. At an early age children don’t instantly grasp that people dress up in wild and crazy outfits that transform appearance. Minds are still developing and when they see something that can walk and move like a human but that doesn’t look like mom or dad real fears develop. Many young kids have real issues with clowns. Many have issues during Halloween.

Because of one of the responsibilities I hold at work I am exposed first hand to another one of these types of fears that children hold: mascots.

Holding the distinction of mascot coordinator within Grizzly Athletics I routinely see how the most loved personality in the state of Montana can also be the most feared. While Monte, our grizzly bear mascot, has reached rock star status on a national level for his ability to entertain and connect with fans even his one of a kind charm is sometimes not enough to calm the fears of petrified children. At most events or basketball games you can expect to see at least one child ranging in the age of 2-7 meltdown at the sight of him. Kids will cry, scream, run away, or bury themselves in their mom or dad. It doesn’t take a psychology degree to figure out why these young kids are frightened. Seeing an agile, walking bear that blurs the lines between an animal and a human can confuse a toddler to the point of tears.

I get the opportunity to work with our mascots, Monte and Mo

I get the opportunity to work with our mascots, Monte and Mo

Monte doesn’t get selected to the Capital One All-American Mascot team on a consistent basis just because he can entertain, dance, entertain, and tumble though. His ability to connect with children, adults, and the elderly sets him apart. More often than not I have seen him approach those frightened kids right on the spot and win them over. In the blink of an eye the shrieks turn to laughs and Monte and the kid are embracing.

No one is better with kids than Monte (photo courtesy of Todd Goodrich)

No one is better with kids than Monte (photo courtesy of Todd Goodrich)

Of course it doesn’t always happen that way. Sometimes the child is just not ready to enjoy a mascot and Monte lets him or her be. For some children it takes time to outgrow the fear. They will avoid and turn the other way when Monte is in proximity but then a couple years later the fear is gone and the kid, wearing a #00 jersey, is rushing at him to jump in his furry arms. But then there are the extreme cases…

Monte makes thousands of kids smile a year (awesome photo courtesy of Todd Goodrich).

Monte makes thousands of kids smile a year (awesome photo courtesy of Todd Goodrich).

Some youngsters develop a polarizing fear of Monte. Unfortunately that fear doesn’t just end at the arena when the bear is not around. Pictures, mentions, and thoughts of Monte can trigger fear simply when the child is at home or at school. This is when Grizzly Athletics intervenes. Twice since I have worked in the department parents have contacted me about their child suffering from a phobia of Monte. When this occurs I invite the parents and their son (both times it has been a boy) to come to the office and I turn it over to our amazing students who serve as Monte (we employ two talented individuals).

In a calm manner our Monte performer will greet the kid in his street clothes. He will then slowly take pieces of the Monte suit out of his bag and show the child that it is just a costume. Next he will start to put the suit on while talking to the child the whole way through. Once our performer puts the head on to complete the transformation into Monte the kid is no longer having a panic attack and the fear is gone. Both times I have observed this the parents walked out the door with tears of joy while thanking us profusely.

I deal with two very talented and compassionate Monte performers.

I deal with two very talented and compassionate Monte performers.

Back when I was very young, probably four years old, I had a bad dream involving McGruff the Crime Dog. After that nightmare I dreaded seeing him at the parades and festivals my parents would take me to where he would appear. After a year I grew out of it but even though I was very young at the time I can still remember what that fear felt like which allows me to identify with the kids today who are afraid of Monte.

Sorry to my adult friends who are afraid of clowns but I have more sympathy for the five year old girl who is afraid of Monte. Don’t Blink.