University of Montana president Royce Engstrom has taken a lot of heat in recent months for personnel decisions, not the least of which was the firing of head football coach Robin Pflugrad and athletic director Jim O'Day in March.
But Engstrom hit a homer today when he hired Kent Haslam as UM's new athletic director. Haslam, the only in-house candidate, was chosen from a pool of four finalists. I endorsed Haslam to be hired in a column two weeks ago, and I fully agree with Engstrom's decision.
Today marked a new course for the Grizzlies, and Haslam says he'll lead the Griz athletic department "with integrity, and we’ll be focused on three pillars -- academic success, athletic excellence and community service." I'm sure Haslam will be out on the road soon to meet with supporters state-wide to spread his message.
Fundraising will be one of Haslam's earliest objectives. Facility improvements are a top priority with the administration, and Haslam wants to get out, shake hands with the base and clamor for those much-needed dollars.
With the football team playing well (despite the absence of quarterback Jordan Johnson) and an athletic director in place, things seem like they're getting back to normal at Montana. The NCAA is still poking around the athletic department amid the months-long talk of sexual assault, though, so everyone is still the dark about any potential penalties that may result.
But with Haslam in the saddle, the Grizzlies are ready to move forward.