By Ryan Divish
Let's be real honest here.
Wayne Hogan and I were never friends. The recently resigned University of Montana athletics director and I didn't throw back a few martinis at the Depot, Shadows Keep or any other bar where people with far too much money paid far too much for drinks with far too little alcohol in them.
Wayne Hogan and I weren't really colleagues, at least not in his mind. During my two years covering Grizzly athletics for the University of Montana college newspaper, "The Kaimin," I interviewed Hogan countless times on a variety of topics. But for the most part, he always seemed to act as if he was doing me this great favor by actually talking to me.
The condescending tone with which he answered my questions made me think that of how an adult answers adolescents' constant questions of, why?
To be perfectly honest, I didn't like Wayne Hogan very much. I would like to say he probably didn't like me much either. But I highly doubt he was concerned with the ramblings of the sports editor of the college newspaper.
I did have someone in the athletics department tell me that he used the words: "arrogant," "obnoxious" and "chip on his shoulder," when talking about me once. That isn't the first time those adjectives and my name have collided in the same sentence.
And to be honest, I didn't give him too many reasons to like me. The second column I ever wrote for the paper criticized his handling of student tickets for a Cat-Griz football game. While I never explicitly wrote it, I insinuated that Hogan cared only that the rich UM boosters in the Grizzly athletic association were happy, no matter what the costs to the students. Even back then, I questioned his math skills, sighting a huge discrepancy in the number of tickets allotted.
On other occasions, I questioned his motives for moving the student section in the basketball arena, his decisions to monitor an internet message board and wondered why after asking him a question, he could talk for five minutes and still never really answer it.
But my harshest criticism came when I no longer worked for the paper and was living in South Dakota and doing an internship at a newspaper in Aberdeen.
During my stint there, Hogan decided to fire then-head basketball coach Don Holst even after the basketball team won the Big Sky Conference tournament title and made an appearance in the NCAA basketball tournament. After covering Holst and the Griz for two years, I was very familiar with the situation.
In a guest column for the paper, I described Hogan as a snake-oil salesman that was really disguising the fact that he never wanted to hire Holst in the first place with the a so-called dream of Montana being a mid-major along the lines of NCAA tournament-darling Gonzaga.
"But what Hogan is really selling is a pipe dream, in his usual good old-boy, I'm your best friend, used car-salesman style," I wrote. "Has Hogan sold us a lemon? The Cadillac dream of mid-major success disguised as nothing more than a change that he wanted all along."
I've written harsher words in my life, but they hardly compared to what I said out of the paper. I told anyone who would listen that Hogan would sell out his own mother if it meant a few dollars more for the Grizzly athletic program.
When people asked me what I thought of him, I said he ranked somewhere in between toe fungus and pond scum. I said he had the people skills of a mafia boss and that he considered employees under him nothing more than replaceable fund-raising tools. Yeah, I was a little upset.
Hogan made no secret about who made the decision to fire Holst. It was his and his alone.
"We evaluated where the program was and this is a sad kind of thing for me because personally, I'm a big fan of Don Holst," Hogan said at the time. "He's a wonderful guy and is as honest as the days are long. But I have to evaluate the overall health of the program, and let's face it, it was not a good year. I get paid money to look after the future of this program, and I'm convinced we can be another Gonzaga, or Southern Illinois or Kent State."
Privately, I hoped that Holst's predecessor, Pat Kennedy, would lead the Griz basketball team directly into last place and turn the program into a free-for-all, which has happened to a lesser degree. After taking full responsibility for the firing and hiring in the program, I wanted it to ultimately be Hogan's undoing.
But it wasn't. Instead it was a $1 million deficit in UM's athletics department funding that forced Hogan's resignation.
I don't believe in kicking a man when he's down. And Hogan is certainly down at this point. For as much as I dislike him, I am honest enough to admit that he has done some very good things for Grizzly athletics.
He was an integral part of the Grizzlies' most successful run in athletics. He helped build Washington-Grizzly Stadium and Dahlberg Arena into the majestic places they are today. Hogan helped build Montana's high level of success in football, where the Grizzlies won two national championship titles, eight Big Sky Conference titles and a record 11 straight NCAA playoff appearances.
In 1996 and 1998, UM swept the Big Sky titles in football, men's basketball and women's basketball, something that no other Big Sky school has accomplished.
But in the pursuit of success, Hogan at times alienated coaches, players, boosters and employees. He was brash in his approach and made no apologies for it.
With the discrepancies and accounting mistakes revealed, Hogan was really left no other choice in the situation. He was never afraid to tell people who ran the show in the athletics department before, and he certainly couldn't back out now. He took full responsibility for the problem, while still managing to insinuate blame on others, which is something only Hogan can do.
"These recent events have called the very credibility of my leadership into question in the minds of many of our constituents," Hogan said. "The human error and mistakes made within my department that have led to much of our current budget crisis are inexcusable and have brought great embarrassment to the athletic department and to the university."
He also managed to take a shot at the media outlets, that he was more than willing to use to his advantage during his tenure.
"My continued role in the current media feeding frenzy is doing a tremendous disservice to my wife and son," he said. "Over the past few months my family has endured much of the burden these troublesome discoveries have caused as they have been painstakingly uncovered by myself and others. The emotional well-being of those I love the most has been compromised. Life is too short. I have neither the energy, nor the will, to continue to make myself and my family a target of ridicule and bitterness."
To be fair, Hogan never ducked the media. Being a former journalism major, he understood all to well the pros and cons of being a highly visible person in the newspaper.
The relationship between the media and sports administrators will always be fickle at best. But to blame the emotional well-being of his family on the media's reporting of serious financial problems in what is the most prestigious and visible athletic program in the state is irresponsible.
If you take the responsibility of the financial mess, you take responsibility of the repercussions, including the media coverage, that come with it.
Still, from the beginning Hogan was always clear about who called the shots in the athletics department and it is that sort of individuality that led to his resignation.
"It makes no sense to continue playing the game of who's to blame," he said "My parents taught me well the lessons of accountability. As the saying goes, the buck stops here."
Obviously, the bucks didn't stop rolling out in the UM athletic department, even if the proverbial checkbook was empty.
There is something to be said about karma.
A man who shamelessly treated and referred to UM athletics as a business and looked at the bottom line when it came to his handling of personnel and situations was ultimately undone by his own department's bottom line.