OGDEN -- Weber State offensive coordinator Robin Pflugrad has been suspended by the NCAA for one game for violations committed while he was the head coach at Montana.
Pflugrad will not be allowed to coach between Aug. 26 and the end of Weber State's season opener on Aug. 31 at Stewart Stadium against Stephen F. Austin.
The University of Montana and Pflugrad were penalized for "failure to monitor the football program," according to a statement from the NCAA in announcing the sanctions on Friday. The Division I Committee on Infractions found boosters for the Grizzlies "provided extra benefits to football players, including meals, free legal representation and bail bond payments, a small loan, clothing, lodging, transportation and laundry services. Additionally, the football team exceeded coaching limits and two former student-athletes competed while ineligible."
The NCAA's investigation found that Pflugrad was aware that boosters posted bail for two football players but did not report it, while former Montana athletics director Jim O'Day and other senior department members were aware boosters were providing legal assistance.
In addition to the suspension, Pflugrad is restricted from off-campus evaluations this fall, from off-campus recruiting during the first three weeks of the fall and will be required to attend an NCAA rules seminar. Weber State associate head coach Steve Morton will serve as offensive coordinator during Pflugrad's suspension.
Montana's penalties include three years of probation, the loss of four scholarships from 2014-17, vacating of five wins from 2011 season in games ineligible athletes played, a $3,000 donation to a local charity, the loss of two student assistant coaching positions this season or next and an external review of Montana's compliance program.
In 2011, Pflugrad's second season, the Grizzlies were 11-3 (7-1 Big Sky Conference), tied for the league title and won twice in the FCS playoffs before losing in the semifinal to Sam Houston State.
Weber State football coach Jody Sears hired Pflugrad as offensive coordinator in February after what WSU athletics director Jerry Bovee described as a month-long hiring process.
"(Pflugrad) was very forthcoming to us and honest in his position on (the NCAA investigation)," Bovee said. "That was the litmus test for us deciding whether he fit in our program."
Pflugrad provided WSU with copies of his testimony to the NCAA.
"As we looked at it as a collective group with the administration, it felt like (Pflugrad) is a man of integrity, that he may have made some bad decisions, we all make mistakes, but we certainly didn't see anything as we looked at his situation that gave us any indication that he purposely cheated," Bovee said.
Pflugrad also said he gave WSU a letter from University of Montana President Royce C. Engstrom stating that there were no improprieties in his performance while at Montana. Pflugrad and O'Day were fired by Engstrom in March 2012.
"My focus was on maintaining the integrity of my football program and never an intent to gain any advantage for myself or any staff members," Pflugrad said. "I am ready to do my penalty and get on with football."
In regard to the NCAA sanctions, Pflugrad said he "had hoped they'd look at it maybe more humanistically and look at the circumstances and maybe be a little more lenient on the penalties, but that's their job and I respect that," he said. "I'm ready to move on and do my time and learn and grow from it. I did learn a lot through this process.
Pflugrad said the sanctions were "somewhat of a tough penalty. Failure is a tough word because we never intended to fail in monitoring anything, of course. We had many policies and procedures in place to monitor our players."
There doesn't seem to be any grey area in the report, he said, though he felt there were in the situation.
"What constituted a booster was part of the issue -- was it a family member trying to do something proactive in helping a player, is that ultimately a booster?" he said. "Some of those decisions were difficult. After going through the NCAA investigation, it was proven to me that they were a potential booster and I did learn some things that way."
The NCAA report says the night two Grizzlies football players were arrested in October 2011, the mother of a student-athlete posted their bail and they each later received an estimated $1,500 worth of legal assistance for free from the mother of an undergraduate student-employee. The Missoulian newspaper has identified the players as Gerald Kemp and Trumaine Johnson.
Pflugrad said the situation was very volatile.
"If you read through the NCAA (report), I did have concerns that there was the possibility of some civil rights violations that did exist," he said. "My concern was to control the emotions of my minority players and my minority coaching staff.
"There was never an intent to hide anything from (Montana's) compliance (department)," Pflugrad said. "It was just down on the totem pole because of all the other things that were going on with these mitigating circumstances. It was somewhat like a war zone at the time. The minute I knew none of our coaches had bailed players out, I moved on from that."
Engstrom never offered a public explanation for the dismissals of O'Day and Pflugrad, but the University of Montana was in a tumultuous period where it was investigated not only by the NCAA but by the Department of Justice and the Department of Education for its responses to sexual assault allegations, some of which involved football players.
Pflugrad was fired just days after offering public support for Montana quarterback Jordan Johnson, who was eventually acquitted of a rape charge and has since returned to the team.
The firings came months after the October 2011 incident with Kemp and Trumaine Johnson.
"Really, the investigation had no bearing on my termination as a head football coach," Pflugrad said, but "the overall climate and publicity assisted in creating a certain atmosphere in which the administration overreacted and that resulted in the termination of the athletic director and myself as the head coach."