Dennison defends Hauck, recruiting methods despite Montana troubles

MISSOULA, Mont. -- University of Montana football coach
Bobby Hauck is a strong disciplinarian and is not to blame for the
recent spate of negative news surrounding Grizzly players, UM
president George Dennison said Wednesday.

"I think he's been doing a good job," said Dennison, who
returned to Missoula Tuesday after two weeks of vacation and
university business. "As I understand it from the police here in
Missoula, they believe that the regime has been very good for the
last four years and that Coach Hauck has been very willing to deal
with all the situations that are reported to him. If there is one
thing that Hauck is known for, it's as a disciplinarian."

The Grizzly football program has been under scrutiny following
allegations that cornerback James Leon "Jimmy" Wilson, 20, killed
a man in Southern California.

Wilson turned himself in to Los Angeles authorities on June 12.
He was charged with murder in Los Angeles County Superior Court in
the June 2 shooting death of Kevin Smoot, 29, at the Smoot home in
Lancaster, Calif. Wilson remains in custody on $2 million bail.

California authorities say UM backup cornerback Qwenton Freeman
witnessed the shooting and has refused to answer their questions.

Freeman, 22, was arrested in downtown Missoula early Sunday for
alleged disorderly conduct.

Police say he threw a beer bottle at a man standing outside
Stockman's Bar. He pleaded not guilty Monday in Missoula Municipal
Court. Freeman also has two outstanding warrants for his arrest
from Arizona, the Missoulian reported.

Both Freeman and Wilson have been dismissed from the Grizzly
football team, sports information director Dave Guffey said.

On Wednesday, Dennison voiced confidence in UM's recruitment
policies, saying it's in the school's best interest to recruit
athletes who exhibit strong academic talent and can help UM boost
its graduation rates.

"We don't want to recruit somebody who is not going to make
it," he said. "I just think that we've got to make certain that
we are enforcing all of these policies and procedures."

He added that the university's athletic program is planning to
strengthen its mentoring program, including possibly pairing
student athletes with police officers to improve their
relationships with the community.

"Maybe we've got to do a little more," Dennison said. "It is
an important concern."

Regarding Hauck, Dennison said: "I'm satisfied with him. I
don't think anyone could have foreseen what happened in California.
What's important is how you respond to it."

Dennison said Hauck was unaware of Freeman's legal troubles when
Freeman transferred to UM from the University of Arizona, where he
failed to make the Wildcats' roster.

"He pressed as hard as he could and relied on professionals for
information," Dennison said.

Wilson came to UM fresh out of high school, and coaches found no
indication of criminal involvement, Dennison said.

The coaching staff experienced "minor difficulties" with
Wilson's behavior in Missoula, but those problems were thought to
be corrected, Dennison said.

After the alleged shooting, Wilson returned to Missoula for team
training but didn't let coaches know of the investigation in
California, Dennison said. He then went back to California to turn
himself in.

"He left a text message with coach Hauck that said he had to
deal with family business," Dennison said.

Los Angeles sheriff's detectives who visited Missoula last week
as part of the investigation complained that the football players
were not cooperative.

Dennison said the players were told to cooperate.

"They [Hauck and staff] assured me that the players were told
to provide all information they have but not to deal with rumors,"
said Dennison, who added that Freeman was advised by his attorney
not to talk to police about the case.

Dennison said he has received no complaints about Hauck's
recruiting methods but some callers have accused the university of
recruiting "thugs" for its sports programs.

"I resent that," he said. "It's a terrible slam against the
other students who represent us quite well. We recruit the people
who will graduate and do graduate."