FRISCO, Texas — In the midst of all the excitement when the Griz football team departed for the FCS national championship, the University of Montana community was hit with a hard loss as legendary former head coach Don Read passed away on Wednesday.
The former coach had just turned 90 years old on Dec. 15.
Read cemented himself as an all-time Grizzly great for guiding the football team to its first national championship in 1995.
During his 10 seasons as the head coach from 1986-95, Read accumulated an 85-36 record, including a 54-22 mark in Big Sky Conference play and a perfect 10-0 record against rival Montana State.
The legendary coach never had a losing season during his tenure and piloted the team to five playoff appearances; with his fifth and final being the best as it ended with Montana hoisting the the Division I-AA national championship trophy thanks to a 22-20 victory over Marshall.
After that win, Read road off into the sunset and retired. He left a legacy behind that impacted thousands of Montanans.
"A wonderful human being," current Griz coach Bobby Hauck said Friday. "I think that for him to be as beloved by the percentage of his former players that he is, is just phenomenal, speaks volumes to who he is."
"Washington-Grizzly Stadium was built in 1986, and Don Read gave everyone a reason to fill it up," Montana director of athletics Kent Haslam said. "Don Read was the anchor of that, and really we are the benefactors of just an investment and a passion about (the) Montana Grizzlies."
With Read's death happening the same week as this year’s title game, the Griz will look to honor his legacy in their performance on Sunday as they aim to claim the third national championship in program history when the face South Dakota State.