MTN News-BILLINGS -Rocky Mountain College has unveiled five finalists for its head football coaching job.
It includes two with Division I experience and one with direct ties to Rocky, as the Bears search for their 17th head football coach.
Matt Hollowell, Jason Petrino, Robin Pflugrad, Mark Samson and Zach Tinker have all accepted on-campus interviews starting next week, according to Rocky Director of Athletics Bruce Parker.
Pflugrad is a 32-year veteran of collegiate football. His career opened as an assistant at his alma mater, Portland State, in 1983. He joined the University of Montana in 1986 coaching wide receivers and running backs, then served as assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator under Don Read at UM between 1991-1994.
Pflugrad spent 1995-2000 as an assistant at Arizona State before earning assistant duties at Washington State for the next seven years. He coached wide receivers and special teams at the University of Oregon from 2006-2009.
Pflugrad then earned his first head coaching position at the University of Montana. In 2011 he led the Grizzlies to a Big Sky championship, was named conference Coach of the Year, and earned finalist honors for the Eddie Robinson National Coach of the Year Award.
UM fired Pflugrad and Director of Athletics Jim O’Day in March of 20012 under scrutiny for its handling of sexual assault allegations involving athletes, a move that sent shock waves through much of the campus and Missoula’s community.
Pflugrad later was hired as offensive coordinator at Weber State.
Last season he was the assistant head coach/offensive coordinator at Phoenix College (Ariz.).
Samson is a long-time coach with strong Montana and Frontier Conference ties. He began his coaching career in 1981 as an assistant at Helena High under former Montana State head coach Mike Kramer. His first head coaching position was at Missoula Loyola from 1987-89.
Samson’s college coaching career began in 1990 as an assistant under NAIA Hall of Fame coach Bob Petrino at Carroll College, where he spent time as the offensive coordinator until 1997. He took over as the head coach at Helena Capital High School (1997-2003) compiling a 67-12 record, appeared in six playoff games and won three state AA titles.
In January of 2004, Samson was named head coach at MSU-Northern where he earned 2006 Frontier Conference Coach of the Year and NAIA Region 9 Coach of the Year honors. That season MSUN qualified for the program’s first-ever NAIA playoff appearance
Samson, who coached at Northern for 10 years and also had a tenure as athletic director, resigned after being placed on administrative leave with pay as the university investigated for “a violation of university policies related to the operation of a football camp.”
Jim Potter, Northern’s Director of University Relations, said at the time, “It was a violation of university policies related to the operation of a football camp. The investigation was handled by the university’s internal auditor.”
Potter said the issue did not involve campers.
Samson admitted to a mistake in the depositing of camp funds into his personal account, rather than a university account, in a statement he later released on his own behalf.
He denied stealing money.
Samson returned to coaching Class A football and last season led the Havre Blue Ponies to an 8-3 record and the state semifinals.
Hollowell has spent the past seven seasons as Rocky’s assistant head coach and defensive coordinator under the recently departed Brian Armstrong. Prior to that he was Rocky’s linebackers coach.
Hollowell’s defenses finished in the top three statistically among Frontier programs three of the last five seasons. He has coached 20 All-Conference players over the past seven seasons.
Hollowell arrived at Rocky after seven seasons as head football coach at Belgrade High School, where he led the Panthers to a 41-26 record and six Class A playoff appearances.
The Hysham native earned a degree from Dickinson State University. He played football for the Blue Hawks under legendary and NAIA Hall of Fame head coach, Hank Biesot.
Petrino enters the field after spending the past four seasons as the defensive coordinator/defensive backs coach for the recently retired Joe Glenn at the University of South Dakota.
The Kalispell native has served as a defensive coordinator eight of the past 10 seasons. In 2013, the Coyotes’ defense topped or ranked near the top of the Missouri Valley Football Conference in several statistical categories.
Petrino’s coaching career began in 2000 at Carroll College with the defensive backs. He played for the Saints from 1995-99. Prior to his tenure at South Dakota, Petrino made coaching stops at the University of Mary, the University of Wyoming, Winona State University (Minn.) and the University of Central Oklahoma.
During his 16-year career Petrino has guided seven players to the NFL.
Tinker is currently the offensive coordinator and assistant head coach at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology. He came to the NCAA Division II program from Frontier Conference member Eastern Oregon University in 2012.
Tinker was a 2014 finalist for the American Football Coaches Association Division II Assistant Coach of the Year award.
Parker says on-campus interviews are expected to start Monday.