Q & A session with former Grizzly head football coach Joe Glenn

Joe Glenn

Joe Glenn

June 28, 2012

As mentioned recently, the induction of the 2001 University of Montana football team into UM's prestigious Grizzly Sports Hall of Fame will be a special night, and will be even more special, as the head coach of the national championship squad, Joe Glenn, along with his wife Michele, will be here for the celebration.

The induction banquet is slated for Friday, Sept. 14, and former players, coaches, as well as athletic trainers attending the function will also be recognized at Washington-Grizzly Stadium at the Montana versus Liberty football game the following day, Sept. 15.

That 2001 team won a school-record 15 games en route to a 15-1 season, and was comprised of some of the best players in school history. It will be just the fourth team to join the Grizzly Sports Hall of Fame.

Tickets for the banquet will go on sale to the public on Monday, August 6, and will be available at all of UM's normal outlets.

Glenn coached at Montana for three seasons from 2000-2002, going 39-6, and his winning percentage of 86.7% is the best in conference history. His teams went 20-2 (8-0, 7-0, and 5-2) in league en route to three straight Big Sky Conference titles.

The Grizzlies advanced to the I-AA title game in his first season in 2000, a narrow (27-25) loss to Georgia Southern, and then won the title a year later over Furman. In 2002 the Griz lost 24-20 at McNeese State in a first-round playoff game.

One of the most popular coaches to ever work at UM, Glenn left Missoula to become the head man at Wyoming, where he worked from 2003-2008. He was then out of coaching for three seasons until he was named the mentor at his alma mater, the University of South Dakota, located in Vermillion, in Dec. of 2011.

We recently caught up to Coach Glenn to get his comments about several things, including his stint at UM and memories of guiding UM to its second I-AA national championship in 2001.

1. Your 2000 team was coming off a 13-2 season and that close loss to Georgia Southern in the 2000 title game. Did you think you had a Montana team that could win the whole thing going into the 2001 season?



We absolutely thought we could win the title...everything was in place! There was a lot of talent in all three phases of the game and a wonderful coaching staff. In the end I would have to say the key ingredient was "THE QB: "John `Johnny Montana' Edwards." He brought the leadership, character and confidence that every championship team needs....A WINNER on and off the field. John was the perfect face of our program.

The 2001 team found all kinds of ways to win. We had a big, tough O-line that could dominate the line of scrimmage...a running back that would get you four yards every time...receivers that came up with the big throws...the O protected the ball and the defense created turnovers and rarely gave up big plays. We had a speedy and talented group of special teams players who executed to perfection and won the field position game after game! Our punting and kicking was also rock solid.

All-in-all.....the best "TEAM EFFORT," I was ever a part of!

2. You had some memorable games in 2001, including two double overtime wins: 29-26 over Eastern Washington (the game-winner was a 20-yard scoring pass from John Edwards to Etu Molden), and a 33-27 victory over Idaho (Yohance Humphery scored the winning TD on a 25-yard run). Do you remember those games, and were there others that you remember from that season? Another biggie of course was the 38-0 blanking of Northern Iowa in a I-AA semi-final game played here in Missoula.

Idaho's coach, Tom Cable, said it too, "The Griz just know how to win." There was an air of confidence about the 2001 team...you just knew someone would make the play. That feeling lasted 23 games....an incredible run!

The Northern Iowa coaching staff made a mistake in maligning the Grizzly faithful before the game. The crowd got into it the second the Panthers took the field for warm-up and revved the team up like you can't believe.... and didn't let up the entire game!

The crowd at Washington-Grizzly Stadium is pound-for-pound the best in all of college football and worth at least 14 (points) a game ....and that's no bull! They virtually will their team to win!

3. The championship game could have/should have been the first shutout ever in the I-AA game. Do you ever think about that in regards to the 13-6 win over Furman?

Furman threw a jump ball on the last play with the score Montana 13, Furman 0. Our DBs batted it up and fell to the ground.....Furman caught it and ran it in as the clock ticked away. The shutout was not a big deal to me...heck, we just won the National Championship (a 13-6 win over Furman)! However, I looked at (Griz defensive coordinator Mike) Breske as we were walking across the field to shake hands and I thought I could see steam coming out of his ears! We hugged and he got over it quickly.....but I'll bet you he still thinks about it more than most.

EDITOR'S NOTE: In the win over Furman, played in Finley Stadium in Chattanooga, Tenn., Humphery had 30 carries for 140 yards and UM's only touchdown, while Chris Snyder kicked field goals of 35 and 30 yards. Humphery's 2-yard touchdown run culminated a 16-play, 99-yard drive in the second quarter.

4. You won a couple of D-II titles when you were the head coach for the University of Northern Colorado Bears and then one with the Grizzlies. Was one of those championships more memorable than the other? You only had to play your old team (NC) once, which was a 31-14 Griz win in Missoula in 2002. Was that a strange experience?

People like to ask: what was your most memorable win? It is a hard question to answer because of all the special people involved in each instance....players, coaches, support staff, fans, families, administration. I have always felt that, "Big-time Is Where You Are At," so the level doesn't really matter.

With that said...the five most memorable wins (all equal):

1996 UNC 23, Carson-Newman 14, National Championship.

1997 UNC 51, New Haven 0, National Championship.

2001 Montana 13, Furman 6, National Championship.

2004 Wyoming 21, UCLA 17, Las Vegas Bowl.

2008 Wyoming 13, Tennessee 7, @ Knoxville, TN.

I really didn't feel that awkward coaching against UNC while I was at Montana. I had offered all my UNC coaching staff an opportunity to come to Montana and some chose to stay at UNC and I respect that. I think I would have felt a little funny if I hadn't offered the coaches at UNC the chance to come to Montana but that was not the case.

5. You had a lot of great players on that team with Yohance Humphery, John Edwards, Etu Molden, not to mention Vince Huntsberger, Matt Steinau and Trey Young on a great defense. Which of those guys stand out the most? Also, did you know that Yo rushed for 2,101 yards and 23 TDs in Montana's 15 wins in 2001, which includes the playoffs, but those playoff stats did not start counting as single-season and career stats until the 2003 season. Also, Huntsberger still holds the school record 393 career tackles?

I think I have to refer back to Question #1 There were so many terrific playmakers and ranking them wouldn't be fair because it was all such a "TEAM" effort.

I will say that we had a sensational group of home grown "Montana Boys," and that cannot be overlooked....such solid leadership and toughness!

6. Your three-year winning percentage of 86.7% (39-6) is the best in Big Sky history, and UM's 15 wins in that 2001 championship season are the most in single-season school history. That must make you proud, especially since you (Glenn was an assistant football coach at Montana from 1980-85) returned to a school that had let you go when Coach Donovan was let go. Was it difficult for you to come back to Missoula?

Of course we are very proud of the run we had at Montana and we have a lot of people to thank... again...the players, coaches, support staff, families, fans and the administration. I have also personally thanked Mick Dennehy and Co. for leaving us a pretty pat hand...we inherited a terrific bunch for sure.

Special thanks to (former Griz athletic director) Jim O Day for his efforts with John Hoyt in getting us out of the trailers...that was huge. (UM's football "offices" for a time were trailers located in the Washington-Grizzly Stadium compound and Hoyt, a Griz booster, gave a substantial financial gift for the renovation of the athletic department offices. It is now called the "John Hoyt Athletic Complex"). Wayne Hogan (Hogan, UM's former athletic director, hired Glenn on Dec. 6, 1999) was great to work with and made it fun!

It was not hard for me to return to Montana in 2000 after being let go in 1986. I talked to Coach Donovan (my mentor still) before returning, and he encouraged me to take the job. The dynamics were very different, and Michele and I have so many wonderful friends in Montana....a no-brainer.

7. The Griz open against your South Dakota football team this season. Will that be an emotional game for you?

We have a very hard working and young football team that is very excited and eager to join the Missouri Valley Football Conference. We lost 23 seniors; however, I don't believe the cupboard is bare. We have some very talented guys and a wonderful group of coaches. I am very excited for the upcoming season and anxious to see our guys in a game.

The fact that we are playing Montana will be weird for me for sure. But.......this is what I do and I am back at USD (Glenn is a 1971 graduate of South Dakota, and played quarterback and wide receiver for the Coyotes) ...a place that I owe big-time! I don't think the Coyotes care that I used to coach at Montana...they know they will be playing a nationally ranked program and will have respect for the program at the U of M.

Both teams will be very excited to get a measuring stick on the 2012 season.....it will be fun for Mick and I ....you know that....kinda (sic) like the "old" George Foreman vs. Gerry Cooney fight at Caesar's Palace in 1990 billed as "Geezers at Caesars."

8. What are some of your fondest memories of UM, Missoula, and Montana?

There are so many fond memories of Missoula I don't know where to start.

Certainly, you would have to start with the many, many friends we made. In the early 80's I met many of the local high school coaches when I joined the UAS/TACO TREAT softball team and so many of those guys are still dear friends today. Then in the early 2000 years I came back and signed on with the oldtimers softball team sponsored by Red's Bar "Home Of The White Sox" no less ...and once again many great friends.

The Quarterback Club was a sensational bunch that I felt very close to...a very fun and sharp group...many good laughs!

Floating the Blackfoot, the Clark Fork, the Alberton Gorge, and the Missouri at The Gates of the Mountains showed me beauty I did not know existed. The highway to Polson where the Mission Mountains open up to you near Ravalli is a sight to behold...never got over how majestic it was to see the curtain pulled back at the top of the hill...WOW! And, of course, all the beauty of western Montana is basically so beautiful it defies description from a football coach...I refer to the journals of Lewis and Clark for that! I don't know of a more beautiful place on earth!

And right next door Michele and I met the most wonderful family "THE HAYES," who became our family. They are the kind of folks that are with you through thick and thin...we vacationed and travelled with Mike, Jone and their family and still do! We learned so much about Missoula and Montana from the Hayes and their families -- the McElwain's and the O'Connells' ...all of whom we consider our family....THE BEST !

Sports memories are many as well....in no rank order...a few that stick out: 1982 Big Sky Champions (predicted dead last, when Boise St., Nevada and Idaho were still members of The Big Sky Conference). 2001, 2002, and 2003 Big Sky Champions. 2001 National Champions.

The 2000 victory over Idaho on a last second TD catch by Jimmy Farris (a 7-yard pass from Drew Miller with 19 seconds left to play) in Pullman (the Grizzlies played the Vandals in Washington State's Martin Stadium Wash.). This stands out because we were 0-1 (lost at home 10-9 to Hofstra in our first game at U of M)....and the team we inherited averaged 50 points a game the year before. I'm pretty sure if we had lost two in a row I would have been tarred and feathered upon returning to Missoula.


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