UM cuts ties with coach Stitt after Griz miss playoffs for second consecutive season

The University of Montana released head football coach Bob Stitt on Monday after the team missed the playoffs for the second consecutive year. (UM photo)

The University of Montana cut ties Monday with the head coach of the Grizzlies’ football team after missing the playoffs for the second straight season and dropping consecutive losses to rival Montana State University.

The university’s Athletic Department released coach Bob Stitt after he compiled a winning 21-14 record over his three-year tenure.

“One of the things I really appreciated is the culture he created – this culture of team unity, respect and collaboration,” said UM Athletic Director Kent Haslam. “But I do think we need to get that toughness back, that swagger.”

Stitt took charge of the football program in 2015 following a period of prolonged scandal. Haslam credited Stitt for righting the ship and restoring discipline to the program.

However, he added, the program needs a coach to help it return to the top of the conference amid the changing landscape of the NCAA. The program hasn’t missed back-to-back postseason appearances since 1991-92.

“The Big Sky Conference is a tough conference, and those other schools have really elevated their game,” said Haslam. “We need to be winning conference playoffs and going to championship games. They’re valuable to our university and this community.”

Haslam said his decision wasn’t tied to the result of a single game. He said the evaluation process has been ongoing over the past few years – years that have seen major private investment in the football program, including the new Grizzly Champions Center, and new turf and a new scoreboard in Washington-Grizzly Stadium.

The program also has regained all its available scholarships.

“This is a premier place to come to in the FCS (Football Championship Series) and come play football,” said Haslam. “This is the place to be and I’m excited for what lies ahead. Our future is bright, our foundation is solid and we’ll be just fine.”

Haslam said the search process would begin immediately but had no timeline.

“We want to make sure we’re finishing strong and competing in the right ways and doing the right things,” Haslam said. “We want to get stability. I hate to peg it to one singular event.”