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Legendary Montana football coach Don Read dies at age 90

Don Read Obit HM.png
Posted at 6:00 PM, Jan 03, 2024

FRISCO, Texas — Don Read, the respected football coach who lifted the Montana Grizzlies to national prominence and guided the program to its first national championship in 1995, died Wednesday. He was 90.

Read's son, Bruce Read, confirmed the news to MTN Sports.

Don Read served as head coach of the Grizzlies from from 1986 to 1995, going 85-36 overall and 54-22 in the Big Sky Conference to become, at the time, the team’s all-time winningest coach. Read never had a losing record in 10 seasons and coached the Griz to the playoffs five times.

FootballScoop first reported the news. The University of Montana also announced the news Wednesday evening on social media.

With Read on the sideline and Dave Dickenson at quarterback, Montana went 13-2 overall in 1995 and won the Division I-AA national championship with a 22-20 victory over Marshall in Huntington, W.V. Read retired at the end of that season after being named the national I-AA coach of the year.

This year's Montana team has advanced to the national title game and will face South Dakota State here Sunday at Toyota Stadium in the hopes of claiming the program's third title and its first since 2001.

Jerome Souers, who served as a defensive assistant for each of Read's 10 seasons at UM, provided a statement to MTN Sports.

"Sad to hear," Souers, now the head football coach at MSU-Northern, wrote in a text message. "He had a full and rewarding life. We lost a great man in Don Read."

Read was twice the head coach at Portland State, first from 1968-71 and again from 1981-85. He also served as head coach at Oregon (1974-76) and Oregon Tech (1977-80). He replaced Larry Donovan as coach at Montana following the 1985 season.

With innovative, pass-happy offenses, Read helped Montana rise up the national ranks in the late 1980s, coaching the Griz to the I-AA playoffs in 1988 and 1989 with the latter season culminating with a berth in the semifinal round.

The Grizzlies advanced to the semifinals again in 1994 before reaching the championship summit the following season. Read retired with an all-time collegiate head coaching record of 155-126-1 (.550). Current Montana coach Bobby Hauck, with 129 total wins, surpassed Read’s victory total at Montana early in his second stint with the program.

Among Read’s highlights at Montana was a 10-0 record against Montana State. Read’s Grizzlies defeated the Bobcats 59-28 at a newly built Washington-Grizzly Stadium in 1986, setting off a run of 16 consecutive victories over archrival MSU.

Read also served as UM's athletic director during the 2004-05 academic year.

Read earned a bachelor’s degree in social science from Sacramento State in 1960 and a masters degree there two years later. His first head coaching job was at Petaluma High School in in Petaluma, Calif., In 1962.