Montana can be a forgotten state at times. We are not nicknamed the “Forget-Me-Not State” like Alaska, but we can struggle for recognition at times as some of our compatriots around the country believe we are part of Canada, we still ride horses to school, or that our state is named after Joe Montana or Hannah Montana. Instead, our nickname is the “Treasure State,” and while that nickname refers to the abundance of precious metals found here, we have another treasure we are recognized for throughout the nation. That treasure is, of course, the Cat/Griz rivalry.
Montanans don’t really know how good they have it. Other states have many major universities that dilute the fan bases making certain rivalries not as polarizing statewide, such as the many strong college rivalries in California and Texas. Still others are biggest rivals with out-of-state teams, like Ohio State and Michigan, and while their rivalry is great, at least they don’t have to live inside the same borders year-round. There are other states with in-state rivals that don’t even play in the same conference, as is the case in North Dakota and Iowa. Then there are schools without any big in-state rivals at all, like in Nebraska and Tennessee.
The “Brawl of the Wild” does not have any of these issues. MSU and UM are by far the biggest schools in the state by far, meaning there aren’t any other major college fan bases in our borders. The rivalry is between fans who are passionately divided on Saturdays but have to share the same state the rest of the week. As of late the rivalry has been a big game for deciding the conference title too. It is hard to be on the fence with the Cat/Griz rivalry; you are either on one side or the other. It is the one game that captivates the entire state every year.
For us Cats fans, at times it can be hard living with our Grizzly counterparts. They like to remind us of “The Streak,” a period from 1986 to 2001. When the Griz won every Brawl, of their overall win total in the series and their recent playoff successes and national championships. Fortunately, our program has more than turned around in the 21st century under head coaches Mike Kramer and now Rob Ash. We have made the series very competitive in the last decade. Despite the rampant Grizzly hubris, don’t be afraid to remind your pesky Grizzly friends about the Bobcat’s rich football history as well. First there is the “Golden Bobcat” Era, during which the Cats won 22 out of 30 in the series. While the Griz do have the overall edge, the last half-century has been very even since both teams joined the NCAA in 1957, with the Griz only ahead 29-27 since that time. This even includes “The Streak” that the Grizzlies are so proud of. As for championships, the Cats have 20 conference titles to the Griz’s 18, and the Cats have won the national title three times to the Griz’s measly two.
Despite our division, all fans of this great rivalry can agree the anticipation and excitement the rivalry provides is truly something to behold. I am really pulling for McGhee, Kirk, Bleskin, Daly and all our other seniors to lead our team to victory this weekend. This senior class has given us much to cheer about with four great years and they deserve to go out with a victory over our archrivals. Not to mention we have a playoff berth on the line. Most of all I hope you all have a safe and fun weekend. After all, this rivalry is our state treasure and it only comes around once a year.