Grizzly football boosters are asking University of Montana administrators to appeal sanctions self-imposed last year after an NCAA investigation.
UM boosters claim the loss of scholarships is an unfair penalty, so they’re asking UM President Royce Engstrom to take another look at the sanctions.
The NCAA and UM agreed on those sanctions last year, after an 18-month investigation. The NCAA released a report saying former football coach Robin Pflugrad and the school failed to monitor the football program. It said boosters provided student athletes with benefits including bail money, free legal representation, meals and lodging.
UM agreed to a list of sanctions including a 3-year probation period. during that time the football program loses four scholarships a year. In addition, the program had to vacate five wins, including two playoff games.
Now some boosters say the loss of scholarships will impact the football program for years to come, and it’s impacting players who weren’t around for the penalties.
“When you compare that to other schools it really didn't stack up,” said booster Brint Wahlberg.
Wahlberg helped put together the request to UM officials to take another look at loss of scholarships.
“It seemed like the penalties against the University of Montana football team on the scholarship basis were way too hard,” he said. “Can something be done to request a reduction in the scholarship penalties against the football team?”
That process might not be so easy.
“Self-imposed penalties have never been successfully reduced or appealed,” said Wahlberg.
In 2012 the NCAA denied an appeal from Boise State. That football program had to cut three scholarships in the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 seasons after the NCAA found violations ranging from recruiting infractions to transportation and lodging.
UM Senior Associate Athletic Director Jean Gee said it can be a complicated process. In the meantime she said UM is working hard to comply with the sanctions.
“People are complying, they're asking the questions, they seem to feel really open,” said Gee.
She admits they appreciate the dedication of Griz football fans.
“We're so fortunate to have such passionate fans.”
Fans like Wahlberg, who aren't ready to give up.
“Have a reduction in the penalties, that'd be great. If it's three, if it's two, if it's one, whatever can be done to help, all the better,” he said.
The final say on whether to request an appeal would have to come from Engstrom. In the meantime Grizzly boosters are thinking about putting together a petition to get more fan support.