May 2012 Archives

News and notes from the Big Sky Conference

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* In just over a month the Big Sky Conference will bulk up to 11 teams for all sports and 13 for football. North Dakota and Southern Utah will officially become full members on July 1 and compete in all sports. UC Davis and Cal Poly will also join July 1 as football-only affiliate members.


* Next year's Big Sky Conference championship schedule:


Cross country  --  Oct. 27, Flagstaff, Ariz. (all 11 teams)

Soccer  --  Nov. 1-4, hosted by regular-season champion (four teams)

Volleyball  --  Nov. 23-24, Greeley, Colo. (six teams)

Indoor track and field  --  Feb. 22-23, Bozeman, Mont. (all 11 teams)

Men's basketball  --  March 14-16, hosted by regular-season champion (seven teams)

Women's basketball  --  March 14-16, hosted by regular-season champion (seven teams)

Golf  --  April 21-23, Chandler, Ariz., Ocotillo Golf Resort (all 11 teams)

Tennis  --  April 26-28, Sacramento, Calif., Gold River Racquet Club (six teams)

Outdoor track and field  --  May 8-11, Portland, Ore. (all 11 teams)

Softball  --  May 9-11, hosted by regular-season champion (four teams)


* The volleyball and tennis tournaments are both expanding from four teams back to six in 2012-13. The volleyball tournament will be hosted by Northern Colorado because of the Bears' regular-season championship last fall.


* Both basketball tournaments are undergoing some changes. 1) They will both expand to seven teams. 2) They will both be played on the same dates: Thursday through Saturday, March 14-16, and at the site of the regular-season champion. No longer will the men's tournament have separate quarterfinal games at the home sites of the Nos. 3 and 4 seeds.


The tournaments will open on Thursday, March 14, with three quarterfinal games: No. 2 vs. No. 7, No. 3 vs. No. 6 and No. 4 vs. No. 5. The No. 1 seed and host will get a bye to the semifinals.


On Friday, March 15, the top seed will host the lowest seed to win Thursday. The other two quarterfinal winners will play the other semifinal, with the championship game to be played Saturday.


* In the event that the same school hosts both tournaments, one of the tournaments would open Wednesday with three quarterfinal games, and the other would stick to a Thursday start. Friday would then have four semifinal games with two championship games on Saturday.


* Softball will be contested for the first time next spring. Idaho State, North Dakota, Northern Colorado, Portland State, Sacramento State, Southern Utah and Weber State all play softball. The three-day, double-elimination tournament will be held May 9-11, and the winner will earn a spot in the NCAA tournament.


The teams will play a single round-robin schedule during the regular season with teams meeting up for a three-game weekend: doubleheader Friday, single game Saturday (all weather dependent). If everything goes according to plan, each team will play 18 regular-season Big Sky games: three each against the other six teams.


* Softball at Montana is coming. At the earliest the Griz will start playing in the spring of 2014, though a more realistic start is in 2015.


* The Football Championship Subdivision national championship game will be played on Saturday, Jan. 5, at 11 a.m. (MT) at FC Dallas Stadium in Frisco, Texas.


* Two other football-related changes: 1) Kickoffs will be from the 35 yard line, and players on the coverage team need to start within five yards of the ball. 2) Touchbacks will be brought out to the 25 yard line.


Spectators around the world agree, sports and food go hand in hand. Super Bowl Sunday is the busiest day of the year for Pizza Hut. Buffalo Wild Wings has developed an entire nationwide restaurant chain based on their motto of "Wings. Beer. Sports."

In-stadium fares are growing ever more diverse, no longer is it just a hot dog and pretzel. At Grizzly games you can get a Pizza Hut pizza, a bag of gourmet kettle corn and something called a walking taco. There are even vegetarian options, though from the numbers it doesn't look like Griz fans are big on eating healthy. Luckily for our waistlines football season doesn't last all year long.

The folks at UM Concessions are the ones behind the scenes that make sure there is a Coke and a box of Milk Duds waiting for you at Washington-Grizzly Stadium. There are several full-time employees that spend the entire year preparing for six Saturdays in the fall.

Here are some tasty numbers from the 2011 Grizzly football season.


8 home games

32 approximate hours concessions were open

726,800 fluid ounces of fountain soda

8,866,960 calories contained in 726,800 ounces of Coca-Cola Classic.* It would take a single person nine years, eight months and 15 days of the recommended daily value of 2,500 calories to match that number.

20,367 bottles of water

16,053 cups of hot cocoa

11,331 candies

9,972 Griz Dogs

5,151 Polish Dogs

2,396 soft pretzels with cheese

1,669 orders of nachos

1,150 bags of kettle corn

20 Veggie Bratwursts

Source: UM Concessions


Update: The last "Griz by the Numbers" post included a note that former Griz player Donny Lisowski was invited to the Seahawks' camp on a tryout basis. He impressed head coach Pete Carroll and Monday signed a three-year free-agent deal.



Montana men leading race for All-Sports Trophy

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The Montana men's athletic programs are on the verge of winning the Big Sky Conference All-Sports Trophy for the first time since 1970-71. That was the Grizzlies' lone All-Sports victory since the start of the Big Sky in 1963.


With only the outdoor championships still to be factored into the Big Sky's formula, Montana was averaging 13.5 points per sport, more than two ahead of Weber State's 11.4. Montana State was third at 10.8.


The Bobcats were second at the outdoor track and field championships at Bozeman last weekend, the Wildcats third and the Grizzlies seventh.


Montana won outright Big Sky titles last season in both men's basketball and men's tennis and shared the football championship. The Grizzlies finished fourth at the Big Sky cross country championships and seventh at the indoor track and field championships.


The Montana women won their first All-Sports Trophy last season.


Northern Colorado led the chase for the Women's All-Sports Trophy going into the outdoor championships. The Bears, who had outright titles in volleyball and golf, a shared title in soccer and a runner-up finish in basketball, were ahead of Sacramento State, but the Hornets finished first last weekend at Bozeman to UNC's ninth.


Montana was sitting fourth entering the championships.


The good news is Montana held a solid overall athletic points advantage when the men's and women's totals were combined. The Grizzlies were averaging 10.2 points per sport, well ahead of second-place Weber State's 8.7.


That total is the one that is used for determining the athletics portion of the Presidents Cup, which is awarded in July and is a balance of athletic and academic performance. The Cup also takes into account graduation rates and team grade point averages, among other things.


Overall Athletic Points (Men's pts. ... Women's pts. ... Total ... Avg./Sport)

Montana (67.5 ... 55 ... 122.5 ... 10.2)

Weber State (57 ... 47.5 ... 104.5 ... 8.7)

Montana State (54 ... 38.5 ... 92.5 ... 8.4)

Sacramento State (35 ... 66 ... 101 ... 8.4)

Northern Colorado (16 ... 80.5 ... 96.5 ... 8.0)

Portland State (36 ... 59 ... 95 ... 7.9)

Eastern Washington (49 ... 44 ... 93 ... 7.8)

Northern Arizona (38 ... 49 ... 87 ... 7.3)

Idaho State (28.5 ... 52.5 ... 81 ... 6.8)

Here's to the Kicker

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Here's to the kicker.

Here's to the scrawny kid who weighed maybe a buck fifty when he showed up on campus in 2008 but with hard work ended up benching the standard 225 lbs. 24 times at the Griz Pro Day this spring.

Here's to the guy who had to replace the greatest kicker in Montana history and four years later was matching and breaking his records.

Here's to a man who spreads praise to his teammates and accepts the full burden of blame.

Here's to the hero that will look you in the eye when he shakes your hand and sign any autograph shoved in his face.

Here's to Brody McKnight.

McKnight transferred to Montana from Purdue but hails from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada a place known more for what they do on the ice than on the field. When he became a Griz in 2008 he stepped into big shoes, Dan Carpenter just left for the Miami Dolphins. Much of Griz Nation including myself was worried to see what would happen to the one phase of the game that was automatic. A few weeks into the 2008 season the redshirt freshman eased the minds of the Griz fans everywhere. He hit a 42-yard field goal as time expired to give the Griz a 38-35 win over Central Washington.

He is quick with a smile or a joke. He often slipped from his folksy Canadian tone into a fiery impression of his mother Jenny's thick Irish accent.  He also was great in the Missoula community. He never hesitated to speak at a fundraiser or dinner or volunteer for community service projects. He would do anything for Griz Nation but if he had his choice would probably be fishing.

He earned the respect of his teammates with his hard work and selfless attitude. When the punting game struggled and he was asked to step in, he did without question. He was named the 2010 and 2011 team co-MVP and was a team captain in 2011.

He was drafted eighth overall in the Canadian football League draft, but has set his sights higher. He signed a free-agent contract with the New York Jets and just finished their three-day minicamp last weekend. An undrafted free-agent deal is by no means a guarantee of a job, but here's to hoping that good guys occasionally finish first.

Here's to having two Griz kickers in the AFC East and hoping we can get lucky three times-in-a-row.

Based on its top-10 finish in the final coaches' poll in football last fall, Montana is currently ranked 19th in the latest Capital One Cup standings. The Capital One Cup will be awarded in July to the best men's and women's Division I athletics programs in the country.


Through the winter sports seasons, North Carolina leads the men's standings with 75 points. Stanford tops the women's standings with 109.5 points. The spring features 13 more championships that will impact the standings as teams attempt to win both the Cup and $400,000 in scholarship funds.


Schools earn points based on their teams' top-10 finishes in NCAA Division I championships and in the final official coaches' polls across 19 men's and 20 women's sports. The Cup is awarded in July at the annual ESPY Awards.


Last year Florida won the men's Cup and Stanford the women's.


Winter Cup highlights:


* Men's NCAA championship winners were Vermont (skiing), Florida (indoor track and field), Penn State (wrestling), Ohio State (fencing), California (swimming and diving), Kentucky (basketball), Boston College (ice hockey) and Illinois (gymnastics).


* Women's NCAA championship winners were Vermont (skiing), Texas Christian (rifle), Oregon (indoor track and field), California (swimming and diving), Minnesota (ice hockey), Ohio State (fencing), Baylor (basketball), Maryland-Eastern Shore (bowling), Alabama (gymnastics).


* The Baylor women's basketball team won the national championship and became the first team in NCAA history to win 40 games in a season.


* It was the third-straight national championship for Florida's men and Oregon's women in indoor track and field.


* Alabama won its second-straight national championship in women's gymnastics.


* In total, 89 schools have earned points in the Capital One Cup men's standings and 87 schools have earned points in the women's standings.


Capital One Cup standings can be found here:

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