Tony Storti, who coached the Montana State football team to its first national championship, passed away Jan. 23 in Carlsbad, Calif. He was 86.

Storti was head coach at what was known as Montana State College for five seasons and compiled 31 victories, tied for fifth most in Bobcat history. His .705 winning percentage is the highest for any coach who coached in more than 10 games.

The Minnesota native took over for John Mason and went 2-5 in his first season at MSC in 1952. His teams posted marks of 4-4 and 8-1 the next two years when a "local insurance guy lured him away from coaching," before the 1955 season, according to Gene Bourdet, who was an assistant under Storti.

Storti returned in 1956 and led the Bobcats to a 9-0-1 mark, including a 0-0 tie in the Aluminum Bowl, which gave MSU the equivalent of a national championship.

"It was an incredible season," said Bozeman's Sonny Holland, who played under Storti in 1956 and '57. "A large part of that was because he was the leader of the pack. It was an incredible turnaround."

The Bobcats won just four games during Storti's absence in 1955.

The '56 season was also memorable for MSC's first win over Montana since 1947.

Storti's final season in '57 resulted in an 8-2 record. It was his last season as a coach; he moved with his family to Arizona before finally settling in California.

"His whole persona was that of a motivator, an inspiration," said Holland, MSU's all-time leader in coaching victories with 47. "He was a fiery guy. He was full of enthusiasm, on the practice field every day and on game day."

Bourdet was a quarterback for the Bobcats in the '40s and was coaching at Park High School in Livingston when Storti hired him as an assistant in 1956.

"He had such enthusiasm, he expected players to work hard and to be their best," said Bourdet, who lives in Hollister, Calif. "We didn't have a big football team in terms of numbers, but we had a lot of quality."

Prior to coming to Bozeman, Storti was an all-state fullback at Eveleth (Minn.) High School and later played in the Chicago All-Star Game while he was a member of the U.S. Army at Camp Grant in Rockford, Ill. After a transfer to New Jersey, he played for an all-star team against the Green Bay Packers in front of nearly 100,000 spectators.

Storti went on to play at the University of Delaware and his first head coaching job was at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, where he went 24-6-2 in four seasons.

In the 21 prior seasons, Stout had won just 17 games.

Storti was inducted into Stout's athletic hall of fame in 1979 and Montana State's in 1998.

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