MISSOULA – MTN News sat down with the presidents of Montana State University and the University of Montana ahead of last Saturday’s big football game.
It was an exciting weekend in Missoula as it’s the 118th meeting between the Bobcats and the Grizzlies on the football field, but of course, the rivalry goes much further than that.
“Well, this is a great rivalry we have in Montana. It starts on the field with our football teams. Honestly, there isn’t a family in the whole state that isn’t asked, are you a Griz or a Cat this weekend. So we’re looking forward to a great day of fun,” MSU President Waded Cruzado said.
“But I will also say, this is also an opportunity for us to remember, next Thursday is Thanksgiving, so Cats and Griz will sit down together to share a good meal – and because of that, it’s important for all us to remember to “Can the Griz” before it’s too late,” Cruzado said.
“It’s really a wonderful rivalry. You know I’ve been part of the Army-Navy rivalry, I’ve seen the excitement, the energy around a game. Look, I love sports as much as anybody, it’s really fun. I’m excited about tomorrow’s game, I’m excited to see our student-athletes perform out there. But what’s really exciting is we have a great rivalry on the field, but it’s a great partnership off the field outside of that,” UM President Set Bodnar said.
“And what’s great, and Waded mentioned this, this rivalry we’ve channeled a lot of this passion to the good of the community…every year the spirit of this rivalry generates positive work on behalf of this community. Whether you’re a Cat or a Griz, get out there and donate some food, and be part of the service that’s generated from this passionate rivalry, it’s a lot of fun,” Bodnar added.
It’s a tale of two universities this year with Montana State University setting record enrollment.
“I think any university president will always tell you the biggest challenge is making sure we have the necessary resources to deliver a quality education for all of our students,” Cruzado said.
“I also need to say that in Montana we have an additional challenge to make sure that every student in the state understands that this is their university, that any of the campuses of the Montana University System, it’s a wonderful place for them to come and have an education that will prepare them for life,” Cruzado added.
Bodnar has taken over the helm at UM with the school dealing with a slump in enrollment that has resulted in a budget squeeze on campus.
“We’ve gone through the difficult work of aligning our resources to the size of the student body we have right now. Bu just as President Cruzado mentioned, whether you have 10,000 students, 15,000 students, 20,000 students, the goal of the university — and what we’re focused on here at the University of Montana — is making sure that we are allocating our resources to provide the best student experience that we can,” Bodnar said.
“The high-quality education for all of our students, and a transformative experience – and not just for that individual student, but for our community. You know the Montana University System has the University of Montana, Montana State, Western, Tech, Northern, Billings – all across the state the Montana University System is an economic engine that produces educated, informed, productive citizens. So this work is really important,” he continued.
After talking with two presidents most everyone can probably agree that we’re on the same team when it comes to the University System — and that the state of Montana is the big winner.
-Jay Kohn reporting for MTN News