Montana State University's plan to improve Bobcat Stadium was jump-started Tuesday by a $1 million gift made in honor of Bobcat football great Sonny Holland.
The donor, who requested anonymity, asks that Holland receive significant recognition in the MSU Bobcat Stadium End Zone project.
MSU President Waded Cruzado will seek approval for the project this week from the Board of Regents and the MSU Foundation Board of Directors.
The $8 million plan calls for replacing the existing wood and metal bleachers on the south end of the stadium with grandstand-style seating to match the seating on the east and west sides of the facility, essentially bowling in the concourse level and upgrading the 27-year-old stadium. Also included are plans for lights, a new scoreboard and video screen, new locker rooms, public restrooms and concession facilities.
"What better person to be honored with this generous and significant gift than Sonny Holland, who is considered by many to be the greatest Bobcat of them all," Cruzado said. "This gift exemplifies the enthusiasm of Bobcat boosters for this project, and Sonny Holland personifies all that is good about the Bobcat program."
Holland said he was "overwhelmed" with the news of the gift made in his honor.
"I am humbled by the generosity and thought behind the donor's gift," he said. "It certainly is an inspiration to go forward with the stadium project that President Cruzado has outlined. It's a long overdue project."
Holland, a native of Butte, was an All-America center and linebacker for the Bobcats who played from 1956-1959. Holland played on the school's only unbeaten football team - the '56 team than went 9-0-1 and won the national championship. In 1970, fans voted him the most outstanding player in Bobcat football history. His number "52" has been retired.
Holland's first year of coaching was as an assistant for Tom LeProwse at Bozeman High School. He returned to MSU as a graduate assistant for one year under Herb Agocs. In 1963 he was hired as a full-time assistant at MSU by then head-coach Jim Sweeney, also a legendary head coach who hailed from Butte. Holland was named MSU head coach in 1971. In his seven years at that position, Holland's Bobcats won two conference championships and a national championship in 1976.
Holland was named as director of the MSU Alumni Association in 1979. He remained at that post until his retirement in 1992. He worked part-time for the MSU Foundation for three years. He is now retired and living in Bozeman. Holland was inducted into MSU Hall of Fame in 1986, the first-year he was eligible. A charismatic figure, Holland continues to be admired by his former players and colleagues.
"He (is) a guy that players believed could part the sea," said Chuck Karnop of Bozeman, MSU's long-time trainer.
Michael Stevenson, interim president of the MSU Foundation, said the $1 million gift, along with other gifts given in support of this initiative, demonstrates the Bobcat fans' commitment to making the project happen.
The plan that Cruzado will present Wednesday to the Montana Board of Regents and on Friday to the MSU Foundation Board of Directors, calls for the university, in partnership with the Foundation, to secure the necessary funds for the $8 million project. Private donations will represent at least half, or $4 million, which will be matched by the university through a financing arrangement that will be repaid from future ticket sales. Cruzado emphasized that no state funds, student fees or tuition dollars will be used to fund the project.
Cruzado said the project is all about providing the game day experience that MSU students, Bobcat fans and student-athletes deserve.
"There is a tremendous amount of enthusiasm from students and Bobcat fans for this project, which will energize the game-day experience for all," Cruzado said. "We believe this renovation will reflect MSU's excellence and inspire students and student-athletes to achieve even greater levels of success."