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Originally published: 2013-07-26 19:15:07
Last modified: 2013-07-26 19:15:51

Montana football program placed on probation

by Steve Behr Sports Editor

The NCAA has placed Montana's football program on probation for three years Friday after it found several violations, including boosters providing bail and free legal services for two players.

The NCAA said that booster improperly provided bail for All-America cornerback Trumaine Johnson and backup quarterback Gerald Kemp after the two were arrested at a party following a game in Oct., 2011.

Appalachian State plays at Montana on Sept. 7. App State beat the Grizzlies 35-27 at Kidd Brewer Stadium in the 2012 season. Montana slipped to 5-6 last season under new coach Mick Delaney.

The Division I Committee on Infractions, after conducting an 18-month investigation, said Montana failed to monitor the program during 2010-11. The Grizzlies' head coach, Robin Pflugrad, was fired in March of 2012.

Former athletic director Jim O'Day was also fired in 2012.

The Missoulian (Mont.) newspaper reported that the NCAA report stated that Pflugrad and Day knew about the bail that was provided by boosters for Johnson and Kemp following their arrest, but did not report it to compliance officers.

The two players also received free legal services that were valued, according to the Missoulian, of $1,500 each. It is against NCAA rules to provide student-athletes with discounted or free services.

Other infractions included free meals, clothing, free lodging, transportation, a small cash loan and laundry. Another infraction took place with a student assistant performed coaching duties that are supposed to be limited to coaches.

Penalties for the probation vacating five victories in 2011, in which at least one of the players participated, including two playoff wins and a victory over arch-rival Montana State.

Montana also faces a three-year reduction of scholarships from 63 to 59 starting in 2014 and lasting through 2017. A statement from Montana athletic director Kent Haslam located on the universities' website said the football team has 61 players on scholarship this season.

"It has been and will continue to be our philosophy to award scholarship assistance to those student-athletes who a coach feels can be successful both academically and athletically at the Division I level," Haslam said in the statement. "It has never been our practice to simply award financial assistance because a scholarship is available. The coaching staff will remain diligent in recruiting and use the 59 scholarships wisely."

Montana also faces a reduction of two undergraduate student assistant positions in each of the next two school years."

Montana's athletic department must also donate $3,000 to local charities.

Pflugrad, who was 18-7 as coach of the Grizzlies, faces a one-game suspension as Weber State's offensive coordinator this season. He will also not be allowed to recruit off-campus during the first three weeks of the 2013 fall contact period, and he must attend an NCAA rules seminar next year.

'Under the leadership of director of athletics Kent Haslam, we have pledged to build a superior and effective athletic program with students who are known for their contributions to their sport, to the classroom, and to the community," University of Montana president Royce Engstrom said on the school's athletic website. "We are proud of our student-athletes, and I consider athletics integral to the fabric of the Montana experience."