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Former Montana football coach Don Read dies at age 90

Led Grizzlies to first national title in 1995

By The Associated Press
Published: January 4, 2024, 4:06pm

PORTLAND — Don Read, the former Montana football coach who retired after leading the Grizzlies to their first national title in 1995, died Wednesday, four days before the school plays for a third national title. He was 90.

Read’s son, Bruce, confirmed his father’s death to The Oregonian while not disclosing a cause.

“He was a great person who touched many hearts and lives in a positive way,” said Bruce Read, an assistant coach at Lewis & Clark College in Portland. “I can’t tell you how many people have reached out.”

Montana plays defending champion South Dakota State on Sunday in Frisco, Texas, for the FCS championship.

Read was Oregon’s head coach for three seasons, going 9-24 from 1974-76, and had two stints at Portland State (1968-71 and 1981-85) and also coached Oregon Tech (1977-80) before taking over at Montana for the 1986 season.

Read quickly built Montana into a Football Championship Subdivision powerhouse, running an an exciting, pass-first offense and Montana drawing capacity crowds to Washington-Grizzly Stadium, which opened in Read’s first season. Under Read, Montana was 85-36, won two Big Sky titles, never had a losing season and won all 10 of its games against rival Montana State.

“He was a great guy and great coach and he really got things going here,” Robin Selvig, Montana’s women’s basketball coach for 38 seasons, told 406mtsports.com. “He was really nice and obviously he had some exciting football to watch, the way they played.”

Read was the Division I-AA national coach of the year in 1995, when the Grizzlies — behind star quarterback Dave Dickenson — kicked a field goal with 39 seconds remaining to beat favored Marshall 22-20 in the title game of what is now known as the FCS.

Read’s 10-year tenure began a streak of 25 winning seasons for Montana football.

“He was authentic and cared more than the average person,” Dickenson, now the coach of the Canadian Football League’s Calgary Stampeders told 406mtsports.com. “He was very positive. To him, we were an extension of his family. The point of Don Read is that it wasn’t about the stars. It wasn’t about anything more than the team.”

Read wrote a book on quarterback development, “Complete Quarterbacking,” that was published in 2002. He was inducted into the Grizzly Sports Hall of Fame in 1998 and served as the university’s athletic director from May 2004 through July 2005.

Read was born Dec. 15, 1933, in Los Angeles. He played college football at Sacramento State.