Dec 31, 2012 8:05 PM by Dan Cimmino - KPAX Sports

Top sports story of 2012: The year in Griz football

MISSOULA - Our top 10 countdown has included some incredible, inspiring, and memorable performances throughout Western Montana. However, we have saved the worst for last.

Our top story is almost forgettable--at least most of us would like to, but it is undeniably the biggest local sports story of 2012. Coming in at #1, the year to forget for Griz Nation.

Coming off an 11 win season and a trip to the national semifinals, many at this time a year ago would have believed 2012 could bring home another national championship.

But then six months before the season even started, UM came down with a decision that would rock the state of Montana.

University of Montana President Royce Engstrom fired head coach Robin Pflugrad and athletic director Jim O'Day in March.

"I think both Mr. O'Day and I are still in shock, totally surprised of the situation," said Pflugrad the day he was let go.

"I truly believe from the bottom of my heart that my staff and our coaches were on the right page of doing everything correct. Surely we have had some issues as many other schools have had, but I really believe that we disciplined every opportunity that we could."

The coming months saw the hiring of Mick Delaney to replace Pflugrad who had the following statement upon the removal of his interim tag.

"This commitment from Dr. Engstrom and the rest of the administration tells our players we are going to do what Grizzlies do and that is work hard, do the right thing the right way on and off the field and compete for championships."

The university then also decided to hire from within when they brought along Kent Haslam to replace O'Day as the Director of Athletics, and on the first game of the season the Griz looked to be unphased on the field with an exciting opening day victory.

But it was all down hill from there as the Griz squandered leads and found ways to lose in route to the program's first losing season since 1985 finishing the year 5-6, with a 3-5 mark in the Big Sky Conference.

The icing on the cake came in the season finale when almost fittingly the nightmare came to an end with the sight of the rival Bobcats hoisting the Great Divide Trophy within the walls of Washington Grizzly Stadium.

Junior linebacker Jordan Tripp summed up the emotion of the team after that loss.

"If you were to tell me my freshman year when I came in 09 and we went undefeated and to the national championship that we were going to be 5 and 6 my junior year and lose our last game to the Cats I would've told you you were crazy."

All of Griz Nation is hoping bottom has already been hit, as no one within the community can imagine an even worse 2013.

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