- Editorial Offices
- 103 Brantly Hall
- Missoula, MT 59812
- (406) 243-2522
- Icons By Maria Maldonado
Twenty years after their championship win, the 1995 Grizzlies Football team joined forces to give back to the program. Thirty-nine teammates raised $300,000 for the Washington-Grizzly Champions Center, used by student-athletes from all sports.
Teammates Mike Bouchee and Andy Larson talk about being Grizzlies and their decision to
Tell us about your UM story.
Mike: I grew up in Missoula, and my parents instilled a love of UM and the Griz at an early age. The decision to attend UM was an easy one when the Griz offered me a scholarship to play football. My dad, Bill, also played for the Griz, so the opportunity to play for his alma mater was a great honor. I have been a fan since my earliest memories watching Griz football at Dornblaser Field, and I will be a proud alum, fan and supporter of the Griz and UM for the rest of my days.
Andy: My dad was a UM alum as well. We definitely came to Griz football games, and I distinctly remember the great Grady Bennett teams. At the time we were playing, Griz football wasn’t nearly as big of a deal as it is now. I don’t even think back in ’93 we really knew how good we were. We were just out there playing and having fun. I think looking back, that’s really what got people excited to be involved.
What was it like to win the championship?
Mike: That first fall on campus in ’92, our redshirt freshmen class set a goal to not only win Big Sky championships, but also a national championship. Coach Don Read used to point to the old press boxes in the stadium during practice and tell us that the first Griz team to win a national title would go up on the boxes forever. We wanted to be that team. Winning the title was the perfect storm of talent, drive and heart from the players, coaches and administrators. Everything just clicked.
Andy: Dave Dickenson got voted best athlete in the Big Sky for good reason. I’ve never been around a leader like that before. He just expected so much that it propelled us all to step our game up.
What inspired you to give back to UM?
Mike: My parents clearly valued UM growing up and lent their support to the University in numerous ways. They talked often to us about the importance of supporting many things, but the University of Montana always held a special place for our family. I knew early that I would support the University later in life.
Andy: Well, it’s funny, Mike’s dad was actually president of the bank that I came back to work for. He instilled a culture of philanthropy and giving back. Prior to that moment, I donated to a few causes, but it wasn’t a major part of my life. But at that point, I realized how much it mattered to me.
How did you come up with the idea to raise funds with your team?
Andy: Mike and I started talking about putting together a ’95 team gift before our team’s induction into the UM Athletic Hall of Fame in 2005. We remembered that the 1984 Bobcats donated money to help MSU get a turf, and we had this idea that our team should also find a way to give back.
Mike: It was important to us that our ’95 team had a lasting impact at UM beyond the field. We wanted to leverage the ’95 title to build a legacy of support and giving back among current and future UM student-athletes. With our 20th anniversary looming in spring of 2014, it seemed a good time to move forward.
How did it feel to give back as a group?
Mike: Amazing! The entire effort of reaching out and catching up with all the guys, talking about football, about life, about the fundraising effort, and then having it all successfully culminate with the ’95 team coming back to campus to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the national title and present the team gift to UM – it was nearly as memorable as winning the title in the first place.
Andy: Because it was such a long time coming, it was even sweeter to help put this together. It was a great way to inspire others to make a larger impact for campus. Our biggest hope is that this spurs others to give back to UM.
Learn more about opportunities to give back to UM at www.supportum.org.