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Posted: Friday October 23, 2009 3:40PM; Updated: Monday October 26, 2009 9:03AM
Jeff Pearlman Jeff Pearlman >
PEARLS OF WISDOM

Montana coach's protest of student paper sheer bully behavior

Story Highlights

Last week I didn't know Bobby Hauck -- now I want to know who he thinks he is

Hauck and his team are protesting the student paper after an unflattering story

Why do egotistical, bullying coaches think it's OK to treat students this way?

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Montana coach Bobby Hauck claims he's supporting his players by boycotting the student newspaper.
Montana coach Bobby Hauck claims he's supporting his players by boycotting the student newspaper.
Greg Lindstrom/The Kaimin

A couple days ago, I had never heard of the man known as Bobby Hauck.

This might come as a shock to Bobby Hauck, in that homo Sapiens of his ilk --egomaniacal collegiate football coaches who go by boyhood nicknames, speak of "The Program," puff out their chests and wear free shirts provided by sneaker companies -- believe themselves to be otherworldly morphings of John Rambo, George Patton, Albert Einstein and Vince Lombardi.

Yet it is indeed true. Before this week, the only Hauck I knew of was Ralph Houk, the former New York Yankees manager who was famously tossed from 45 games during his illustrious career. Unlike his near-namesake, however, Ralph Houk laughed easily. Following particularly animated exchanges with umpires, he could usually be found in his office, tugging on a cigarette and guffawing at his over-the-top antics.

It was -- and still is -- a refreshing attribute: the ability to step back and maintain perspective.

Alas, Bobby is no Ralph.

In a move that even Division I college football coaches never pull, Montana's seventh-year sideline maven is leading his team in a boycott of... Iran's nuclear program? No. The exclusion of Huey Lewis from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? No. Whole Grain Matzo Farfel? No. What Hauck has decided is that neither he nor his football subdivision players will speak with the Kaimin, the University's student newspaper.

Gandhi, he is not.

Why such a stand? Because when Bobby Hauck's football program doesn't get its way, Bobby Hauck apparently morphs into a 3-year old. The whole ordeal dates back a month ago, when the Kaimin published a piece about an alleged assault on a student by two Montana football players. The content of the article hasn't been questioned, and the reporter made certain to contact Hauck and the players before publication. When the reporter asked the coach about the incident, Hauck cursed him out, then tried to cover up his tape recorder.

Thus began The Boycot (Not) Heard Around Missoula...

"Bobby can be really tough, because he takes the coverage of his team very personally," said Bill Oram, a former Kaimin sports editor now interning at The Oregonian. "Bobby is not a bad guy, but I remember a time I tried to talk to a transfer from Arizona who had a questionable past. Bobby cussed at me up and down, constantly with 'you're f---ing these guys.'

"Bobby once told me that he thought we could be great friends ... 'go out on the lake and tip some beers,' but then we'd come back to work and nothing would have changed because he was very cognizant of a divide between him and the media."

At a recent weekly news conference, a Kaimin reporter asked Hauck a simple question about his quarterbacks.

"You want something from me now?" the coach replied. "You've got to be kidding me."

A week later, the student journalist tried again, tossing another harmless question about the defense.

"I'll give you this, you're persistent," the coach replied. "Who's next?"

Here's who's next: me.

I am a columnist for Sports Illustrated's Web site. I have been gifted with a national platform that the Kaimin's fine student journalists lack. Hence, I would like to ask Bobby Hauck -- rugged football coach -- why he and his bully brethren feel the need to flash their tougher-than-dirt feathers toward student reporters while always -- always -- eagerly responding to the calls and requests of mainstream media representatives? Why, as a state and university employee, he thinks it's OK to publicly humiliate 20-year-old collegiates? Why any sane human being presumably hoping to one day land a big coaching job would ever, ever, ever behave in such an immature fashion?

In fact, I called Hauck ... left the man a message. He responded a day later. Through a colleague. With a statement. This statement: "In a show of unity by our players, and to protest what they believe has been unfair and biased reporting of our program, they have decided to no longer talk to the student newspaper. As their coach, I support their decision."

(Generally speaking, pinning behavioral stupidity on your players is an even worse move than, say, locking out the student newspaper in a town where -- on a good day -- you're covered by three media outposts. And even if your athletes did decide to protest, it's your job -- as a presumed educator -- to do the opposite; to pull the student writers aside, explain your gripe and try to work it out in a mature manner.)

For its part, the Kaimin's staff is continuing to cover the Grizz, though with little enthusiasm. Allison Maier, the paper's editor, said she'll still have reporters attend games and press conferences. "It's what you do," she said. "But I have no problem focusing more on other sports. If they don't want to talk to us, I'm pretty sure there are other athletes who will."

Amen.

Jeff Pearlman can be reached at anngold22@gmail.com.

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