A brief history of Bobcat football

Like many children who grow up in the state of Montana, my brother and I grew up in a family dedicated to one of the two sides of the Cat-Griz rivalry. Our late grandfather, Harold Walker Jr., was a member of the first Montana State College championship team in 1956. Our parents met at MSU, so you could say the odds were stacked that we would grow up to join the Cat side of the rivalry.

However, I’ve come to realize during my time here that not everyone shares my family’s knowledge of the history of Bobcat football. These reasons can include: being from out of state, spending too much time studying school work, not caring in the first place, or watching too much Jimmy Fallon. Never fear, for I, Will Hamel, shall educate you … somewhat.

I’ll have to keep it brief however. For one, our attention spans are very short (you’re probably thinking of toasters right now), and two, my editors probably wouldn’t care for my long-winded defense of Sonny Lubick (again you’re thinking of toasters).

So, to reconcile this (stop thinking of toasters!), I’ve devised this plan: to summarize every era of Bobcat football in Twitter-like fashion of 140 characters or less, but some eras require a little more explanation.  Let’s see how this goes.


Montana Agricultural College lose 1st game to Butte High, renamed Montana State College in 1911, go 9-31-5 vs. Griz, who struggle in PAC 10 (then called Pacific Coast Conference).


No season due to World War II.


Imagine Sisyphus rolling the boulder up the hill, only to watch it roll back down. Cats go 1-9 vs. Griz, stay little brother until …


Cats beat Griz, win NAIA National Championship, begin era of football dominance. Morocco declares independence from France.


MSC’s Jan Stenerud becomes best kicker in history of ever (take that Dan Carpenter). Name changed to MSU in 1965. Cats 10-2 vs. Griz.


Griz go 3-0 against Cats during height of Griz Coach Swarthout’s power. Hippies at height of social relevance. Coincidence?


Cats win 1976 Division II National Championship under coach Sonny Holland, who officially becomes Bobcat Chuck Norris.


Sonny Lubick gets hired, fired and becomes Colorado State legend. Margaret Thatcher becomes Prime Minister of UK. Coincidence?


Cats win 1984 1-AA title. MVP’s include Joe Bignell, Doug Kimball and Coach Arnold’s mustache. Go 1-10 in ‘83 and 2-9 in ‘85, but 3-0 vs. Griz.


Griz build Wash/Griz Stadium and dominate. The (losing) Streak begins. Imagine a bad Nicolas Cage movie … so most of them.


The Kick. Cats go up 1 against Griz with 22 seconds left, kickoff out of bounds and allow last second field goal. (Cage movie = Next)


The Fumble. Cats up 1 against Griz with 5 minutes left, fumble and give up touchdown. Lose conference title. (Cage movie = The Wicker Man)


Cats finish 2000 winless. This author develops nervous tic, sense of doom and male pattern baldness. (Cage movie = Season of the Witch)


Cats end The Streak! Beat Griz 10-7 in 2002. Kramer/Lulay era takes hold. Lu-Lay, Lu-lay Lu-lay Lu-lay.


Cats start 2006 by beating Colorado, only to lose to Division II Chadron State. Griz dominate again.  Parkour becomes popular.


Age of DeNarius (again, you’re welcome oldies stations). Stadium expanded. Cats win 3 straight conference titles. Selfies become popular.

So there you have it, from our first loss against Butte High School (Montana high schools used locals as well as students until 1903) to the popularity of selfies, the history of Bobcat football has been something unique … you’ve been thinking of toasters this entire time, haven’t you?