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I stopped by the Kaimin's campus offices to ask reporter Tyson Alger why an assault that allegedly occurred in March is only coming to light now. The short answer is that Coach Hauck has imposed what Kaimin sports editor Roman Stubbs calls "a wall of silence" around the incident. That wall started crumbling during the season opener against Western State on September 5th. Alger told me he was in attendance, covering the game, when he noticed that neither Johnson nor Swink were on the field. Alger says he thought that was strange, because both players started all last season and seemed to be valuable players. Alger asked Coach Hauck what the reason for their absence was and received this statement of the obvious: "They were both unavailable to compete." Alger then asked Coach Hauck if he could provide more details. “If I wanted to, I would have," Hauck answered, sounding like he's been taking lessons in media relations from Donald Rumsfeld.

Evasive Answers Led Reporter To Alleged Griz Assault Coverup

There are many criticisms to be made of modern, mainstream journalism, but one of the most salient is the way reporters and news-gathering operations seem so often to value access over accurate reporting. The reason is simple: reporters need access to sources to do their jobs. Lose your access, and that job gets much harder to do. As a result, many reporters feel pressure to pad their work with beat sweeteners and otherwise try not to offend.

In turn, sources sometimes try to hold the denial of access over reporters’ heads as a tool for avoiding unfavorable coverage.

That seems to be what Bobby Hauck, head coach of the University of Montana Grizzlies football team, tried recently with Montana Kaimin reporter Tyson Alger, who just broke the story of yet another alleged brutal assault by thick-necked Griz players on a fellow student—and the story of what appears to be a concerted effort by Coach Hauck to keep the incident out of public view.

Alger’s story ran in yesterday’s Kaimin, and it’s worth your time. Here are the basic facts, as Alger reported them in his lead paragraphs:

“Two University of Montana football players have been implicated by three Missoula men in the assault of a fellow student.

“Trumaine Johnson and Andrew Swink, who were both missing from Montana’s first game against Western State this fall, allegedly assaulted UM student Grady McCarthy after an altercation during a party at the Sigma Nu fraternity in March.”

I stopped by the Kaimin’s campus offices to ask Alger why an assault that allegedly occurred in March is only coming to light now. The short answer is that Coach Hauck has imposed what Kaimin sports editor Roman Stubbs calls—in an angry editorial that is also well worth your time—“a wall of silence” around the incident.

That wall started crumbling during the season opener against Western State on September 5th. Alger told me he was in attendance, covering the game, when he noticed that neither Johnson nor Swink were on the field. Alger says he thought that was strange, because both players started last season and seemed to be valuable players.

Alger asked Coach Hauck what the reason for their absence was and received this statement of the obvious: “They were both unavailable to compete.” Alger then asked Coach Hauck if he could provide more details. “If I wanted to, I would have,” Hauck answered, sounding like he’s been taking lessons in media relations from Donald Rumsfeld.

Alger followed up a few more times, finally receiving this response during Tuesday’s weekly football-team press conference:

“You’re done for the day,” said Hauck, while covering up [Alger's] tape recorder. “And you’ll be done for the season if you keep bugging me about this thing that I’ve answered four fucking times.”

Maybe Hauck was hoping Alger was the kind of patsy reporter I described at the beginning of this post, but no such luck for him. Reporter’s instincts tingling, Alger nosed around, identified the victim, and interviewed him, his father, and a witness. It’s all in Friday’s story.

I’m still waiting to hear Coach Hauck’s side of this story (he has yet to answer an email I sent him on Friday, shortly after reading Alger’s story), but—to me—the most interesting detail is Hauck’s apparent threat to withdraw a campus sports reporter’s access to the team because that reporter was demanding answers about the extremely disturbing behavior of two of its players.

How disturbing? If you want details, you’ll need to read Alger’s article, but this wasn’t just a high-spirited dust-up: after the victim ended up unconscious, his head on the curb, one of Hauck’s players is alleged to have kicked him in the face. The police were never called, and neither the victim nor his father—”a big Griz fan”—seem too worked up about it, but based on Alger’s reporting it seems mere chance that this incident didn’t result in severe injury or even death. I mean, on the field, these guys wear helmets for a reason, right?

Reasonable people may differ about Hauck’s right to keep a lid on all of this. To be fair, the Missoulian reports today that the secrecy around this incident may have resulted at least in part from the victim’s wishes. The student’s father says his son “doesn’t want [the incident] blown up,” and—according to UM Athletic Director Jim O’Day—it was at the victim’s stipulation that no university incident report was ever filed.

If these claims are true, however, it seems strange that the student sat for an interview with Alger. And true or not, Kaimin Sports Editor Roman Stubbs makes an excellent point about what he sees as Hauck’s duty to respond to questions about these allegations—and about the UM community’s right to learn not only what happened but what is being done about it. (According to Alger’s reporting, the sidelining of the two players seems to have lasted for only one game.)

“[T]his isn’t Hauck’s football program…. It belongs to the University of Montana…. Students have the right to this information. It is their school, and what happens with Hauck’s team is their business. Without UM students, Hauck doesn’t have a job here and UM doesn’t have a football program. It is that simple.”

Either way, we only know about this story because of the strong instincts and doggedness of a student reporter on the Kaimin. Congratulations to Tyson Alger on a job well done.

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About Sutton R. Stokes

Comments

  1. Cathie Burkland says:

    Excellent. As Alger pointed out, this is the third season for this kind of activity. Hauck hasn’t learned a darn thing, or doesn’t give a damned.

    What do we have to wait for in Missoula to see a change? A shoot-out in the University District?

  2. Setay says:

    I usually like NewWest, but you’re beginning to sound like those tea bagging conspiracy theorists. First, to correct the glaring error: Johnson was out the last half of the season with a knee injury, so I find it unlikely he started every game. Second, do you guys know ANYTHING about Coach Hauck? He’s been for about seven years. He is very secretive about personnel and whether they are active or not and why. If it is injury related it could expose a weakness, etc. He has long taken the “cannot deny or confirm” approach to players. Most reporters know better than to even bother asking, but after all, the Kaiman is practice and the kid probably didn’t know better and pushed his luck. Besides, an incident in March wouldn’t affect eligibility half a year later.

  3. Sutton R. Stokes says:

    Setay: thanks for your comment. Yes, we have noticed that Coach Hauck is very secretive about personnel. But the fact that he is secretive has no affect on whether it’s a reporter’s job to try to find things out, and some would say that his right to keep things secret diminishes the more those things bear on the safety of the students he serves. As for an incident in March affecting eligibility, it seems from Alger’s reporting that the victim’s father is under the impression that this IS the very reason the two sat out the opener.

    Thanks for the correction, the text has been updated.

  4. jedediah redman says:

    So long as Hauck’s minions continue to provide Grizzly fans with a winning football program, it will continue to be okay with fans and facultyif they behave like thugs and he behaves like a Godfather.
    It hasn’t been too long since the entire program was under fire for a major overspending of university funds.
    The Romans were kept fat, dumb, and happy with circuses and wars of acquisition. Dennison probably figures…[i]if it worked for the Romans–and George Bush–why not keep on with a winning program?[/i]

  5. Sutton R. Stokes says:

    Thanks for the comments, everybody!

  6. Jonathan Weber says:

    Setay, I think you put your finger on the point here in stating that “the kid probably didn’t know better.” Actually, the kid apparently knew a lot better than his professional counterparts, i.e. that is the job of a journalist to ask questions, and the responsibility of the coach to handle those questions professionally, whether or not he answers them. I don’t know the rules in the Big Sky conference but in most leagues you’re not allowed to keep injuries secret, and as the Kaimin reported there is apparently no other team in the Big Sky conference that keeps player suspensions secret.

    What’s with the secrecy? Why in the world should Hauck be allowed to run a state university team as a personal fiefdom with no accountabiity to even basic standards of professionalism that would apply to any UM employee?

  7. K M says:

    What is most disturbing about Alger’s article is that he wrote it against the wishes of all parties involved. This was a non-issue, and was resolved between the victim, the players, Bobby Hauck and the victim’s father, all of whom asked to let it rest. Alger’s refusal demonstrates one thing, he did not care about the feelings of anyone involved and was only interested in furthering his own agenda, namely giving the UM football program and BH a black eye. To make matters worse he insulted the victim as well as the victim’s father by quoting out of context and cherry picking sound bites to make his article more inflammatory. IMO, this is the poorest excuse for journalism I have ever seen. The Kiamin, Alger as well as his Editor should all be ashamed of themselves. Those of you that have posted responses to this article that are hurtful to the parties involved without knowing the facts should also take note.

  8. Jonathan Weber says:

    It sure didn’t sound to me like Grady McCarthy “asked to let it rest.” It sounds like he was told to let it rest.

    The people who should be ashamed here are those who think a winning football team excuses unprofessional behavior by the coach and persistent off-the-field violence by players. Sadly, it seems most Griz fans don’t care and would rather disparage the Kaimin for doing its job.

  9. Mel says:

    As a decades long supporter of Griz football I’d like to thank the young reporter for getting in Hauck’s face. Don’t let a punk football coach from a lower division college program intimidate you kid. We need more reporters questioning authorities , especially when they cover up, lie or are just arrogant assholes.

  10. Jay Greene says:

    I think our university athletes should, unlike our politicians, be required to remain squeaky clean.
    Lets hope the [i]Kaimin[/i] will continue to show [i]The Missoulian[/i] what journalism’s supposed to be like.

  11. problembear says:

    don read and joe glen both won nat’l championships and they operated with integrity…..
    hauck has taken them to the big game twice with nothing but blowouts to show for it and he has operated with arrogance…

    the um grizzlies deserve a decent coach who knows how to win the big game and who operates with integrity. period.

  12. UM Parent says:

    If the Missoulian would actually do some investigative reporting, they’d find out that the victim’s mother was devastated by her son’s attack. She was not in agreement at all with what happened, and is thankful that this has come to light.

    I hope that President Dennison feels some heat from all of this and decides that changes are needed within the football program. I am tired of paying tuition that in part goes to a football program that I have no respect for!

  13. Joe Bananna says:

    Haucks actions and verbal skills leave a lot to be desired. This isnt the NFL.. it is college football. These players are supposed to be getting an education first and formost and football players second. Hauck is a thug himself and has always been one. Yes he wins games.. but does he graduate decent citizens as a majority?

    Griz may win more games then the Cats.. but Ash is a class act on and off the field and all his players will be better citizens for his efforts.

  14. Steve W says:

    Hauck needs to respond to these articles. I want to know why Hauck hasn’t called the police if he is aware that a felony may have occurred involving his players.

    This sounds like a case of extremely poor judgment by the coach. What kind of example for the students at our university is he setting here?

  15. peteMT says:

    This sort of thing is what holds me to my resolve of over a decade to never donate a dime to the Montana university system.

    I recall the cuts to the library system, the attempt to eliminate the Architecture program, and the Regents overriding the students votes to NOT increase fees to cover athletics. And how about that new stadium at MSU?

    I also recall incidents at MSU concerning ‘athletes’, drugs, guns, murder, and intrigue. And haven’t we had some real gems at UM lately?

    So good job, journalists, keep up the relentless reporting. And I’ll keep my checkbook closed.

  16. horst says:

    America needs more graduates from football colleges to man their wars of acquisition.
    The U of M is demonstrably such a patriotic institution.