GREAT FALLS — The Montana Grizzly athletic department is preparing for the annual Scholarship Association barbecue in Great Falls on Tuesday, the biggest fund raising event on the calendar for UM.
"It's our biggest fundraiser. It raises the most money,” said Montana Athletic Director Kent Haslam, "It attracts the most people. It's a lot of fun. We ask a lot from our fans. They travel from all points of the state and come to football games and other events. And so every spring, it really is a great opportunity for us to go to their communities and to thank them and then also raise money. All these events are fundraisers and go right back to support student athlete scholarships. So this is a key part of what we do."
Fund raising is a big part of the event, but the event also provides a way for coaches and administrators to interact with fans.
"It's another way to just get into communities,” Haslam said. "Our coaches uses these opportunities to get into high schools It's just a great way for us to connect and be around in communities that we want their support from.”
Fan engagement plays a huge role. Longtime Griz fan and booster Wes Ross is lending a hand with fund raising this year. He’s offering a helmet for raffle that’s been signed by every single Grizzly that has worn the legacy No. 37 jersey. There will be 17 signatures in total, dating back 40 years. It was quite the undertaking for Ross, who started by reaching out some of the former No. 37 wearers that he knew, and then tracking down contact info for the rest.,
“Once word spread, this was a real deal and I wasn't doing anything other than trying to help the university and the GSA program. It really honestly took us about two and a half months and we were done,” Ross saod. "I thought it was going to take me a year.”
Head coach Bobby Hauck signed the helmet in honor of Jesse Sims who passed away in 2021. The helmet will be displayed at the barbeque, and will be up for raffle, with a winner chosen before the first football game of the season in the fall.
"It gives average individuals, and not just the ultra wealthy an opportunity to to win a one of a kind item,” Ross said. "And I think the most impactful, powerful thing was hearing from these guys what it meant to them to wear No. 37.”
"Well, it's a great idea. A passion project from Wes Ross in Great Falls, and certainly that 37 legacy is unique to us,” Haslam added. "Those traditions and those legacies, you can't just make them up. I think they happen organically. And the 37 is a perfect example.”
The GSA barbecue is set for Tuesday at the Great Falls Civic Center. Tickets are $20 and children under 12 receive free entry. Doors open at 5 p.m., and food is served at 6 p.m.
Coaches from all Grizzly sports and mascot Monte will be on hand to meet with fans. The barbecue is one of 13 events on the GSA Spring Tour.