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FCS title game affords Bobby Hauck another shot to cement coaching legacy at Montana

Bobby Hauck
Posted at 2:43 PM, Jan 05, 2024

FRISCO, Texas — At least publicly, Bobby Hauck seems loath to discuss topics such as legacy and the things he's accomplished — or has yet to accomplish — as the head football coach at Montana.

When asked about it Friday during his media availability at Toyota Stadium ahead of the Grizzlies' FCS championship clash Sunday with South Dakota State, Hauck offered a quip more than an actual answer.

"Legacy is for old guys, and I'm not there yet," he said with a grin.

Fair enough.

Still, the 59-year-old Hauck must think about such things, right? This is the fourth time he has directed the Montana football program to the championship stage; the three previous trips during his first tenure as Griz coach came fast and furious in a six-year stretch but all ended in defeat:

A 31-21 loss to James Madison in 2004, a 24-7 vanquishing at the hands of Richmond in 2008 and a 23-21 setback against Villanova in 2009.

Hauck is 129-35 combined in two separate head-coaching stints at Montana. He's the program's all-time winningest coach. A national championship is the only thing that's absent.

With another chance at the brass ring on Sunday, when his 13-1 Grizzlies face 14-0 defending champ SDSU and its 28-game winning streak, Hauck, somewhat vaguely, said the overall philosophy remains the same.

"When you get to this game, the team on the other side is always good," said Hauck, whose squad is riding a 10-game winning streak of its own. "As simple as it may sound, both teams are good football teams. You have to play well to win the game. If you don't play well, there's no way you're going to win it.

"So you have to go play well and get a couple of breaks, and that's the way it goes. The team we're playing has won 28 straight. They're awfully good."

The Grizzlies did not get the breaks or play particularly well in Hauck's previous three title-game appearances, that much is clear. They've gotten several fortuitous bounces and big plays during the course of this current playoff run, and to continue that trend will likely mean a much better shot at victory — in spite of being two-touchdown underdogs to SDSU.

Montana's players are geared up to compete as they've always done on Sunday. But to help hand Hauck the one thing missing from his otherwise gleaming Griz résumé would be a major added bonus.

"If you look at his wins and losses and what he's done for this program, he's arguably the best that's ever coached here and arguably one of the best that's ever coached in the Big Sky Conference," linebacker Levi Janacaro said during Friday's media day. "So to be able to bring him a national championship and kind of cement that would be huge.

"He took a chance on me and allowed me to fulfill my dream of playing at the Division I level of college football, so to be able to repay him with a trophy would be awesome."

The Grizzlies will go for it all again on Sunday at noon Mountain time when the championship game kicks off against South Dakota State. ABC will televise the contest.

Hauck says legacy is for old guys and that he's not there yet. But he did say Friday: "You only get a few bites at this apple."

A victory would — finally and officially — secure his place in the shrine of Griz football immortals.