UM Considers Altering Griz Football Scholarship Penalties - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

UM Considers Altering Griz Football Scholarship Penalties

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MISSOULA - The University of Montana President considers reducing scholarship penalties received by the Grizzlies football program last July.

In January, more than 500 Griz football fans signed a report outlining why they find UM's self-imposed reduction in four football scholarships was too harsh.

Members of this group calling on President Royce Engstrom said the reduction of four football scholarships could have lasting negative impacts on Grizzly athletics.

The Griz fan group's call to action comes nearly one year after a NCAA investigation revealed coaches allowed boosters to give free legal representation, meals, clothing, lodging and transportation to players. The football program's three years of probation period includes vacating five wins from the 2011 season, and the loss of four scholarships.

"Our general message is that we're ready for action," said a member of the call to action group, Brint Wahlberg.

Wahlberg said losing four scholarships was too harsh of a punishment for the boosters' reported misconduct.

"You compare to other programs in recent history, and it's the fourth highest that we've seen," Wahlberg said.

Wahlberg said each football scholarship can be divided into partials. This means losing the scholarships could affect the recruitment of more than four players.

"It would affect team depth and it would definitely affect the quality of play on the field," he said.

Wahlberg said the NCAA has recently made adjustments to penalties at schools across the country.

"So what we're seeing is some positive things where the NCAA is responding to what's going on in the college athletics world, so we're hoping that they can do the same with Montana."

"They love Griz athletics and as the Athletic Director, I sincerely appreciate that," said Griz Athletic Director Kent Haslam.

Haslam said President Engstrom has reviewed the group's argument.

"They brought forward some great points, some points that had been weighing on his mind for months prior to them submitting this paper," he said.

Haslam said Engstrom is now consulting with attorneys on the best course of action.

"I know that it is something that he strongly is considering, he did not take it lightly."

Members of the group pushing for lessening the penalties include parents of former Griz players and other supporters of the football team.

At this point in time, it's unclear when President Engstrom will make a decision.
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