UMW athletic director looks forward to working with community

J.P. Plutt
Wednesday, November 2, 2022


University of Montana Western Athletic Director Michael Feuling has learned over his first year on the job in Dillon that there is a lot to learn in his new job. For instance, he recently had the College of Idaho coming to Dillon for a football game. The Yotes were ranked #7 in the national NAIA poll and were sure to draw a large crowd. Feuling followed his regular routine of calling motels to get rooms for the referees who would be working the game.

“Being a newbie here, I had no idea that it was hunting season starting this weekend,” said Feuling in a recent interview. “So our officials are staying in Idaho Falls and then coming up this way.”

A decision Feuling made regarding the use of the Vigilante Football field by the BCHS sub-varsity was mishandled due to lack of communication and understanding of the historic ways the community and university have interacted. Feuling determined that the sub-varsity could not play their games at Vigilante Field during the early portion of the season when the field was in excellent condition. As a result, the Dillon team was pushed to other fields where injuries to players from both teams involved became a serious issue. “I’ll be the first to admit and I’m sure others throughout the university will admit, we have work to do,” said Feuling. “There is history. I think with creativity and being willing and able to listen and sit down and have conversation, I think the possibilities are endless. I really think we can build together a strong community that is one of the best with sports.

“Again, hindsight is 20/20 and looking back on it now we probably could have gotten a few more games in. I’m a big fan of history and tradition so I totally understand some of the anger. I realize that it is not just this one decision and that it dates back. I think the best thing to do moving forward is to sit down and continue to learn about that history, that tradition, and what we can do to build off of that.”

Feuling says his initial concern was the possibility of 18 games on the field between UM Western, the BCHS varsity and the BCHS sub-varsity team. He opted to keep the sub-varsity team off the field to keep the number of games down. For several decades through the 1980s, BCHS had both a freshman and junior varsity and well as the varsity team and all three high school teams coexisted with the college playing games on Vigilante Field without restricting those games.

This year, the sub-varsity team played at least three of their games on the field that both the sub-varsity and varsity at BCHS both practice on four to five days a week. It is uncertain if that heavy usage contributed to the number of injuries that occurred in the BCHS sub-varsity games.

“I know just in reflection over the past week and even trying to get the game on this past Monday, just communicating better on our end with Brock and Gary over at the high school,” said Feuling. “Having it be my first very and understanding a lot of different things and seeing how everything played out, we can do a better job of getting more than one game on that field, especially for next year.”

With twin sons in Dillon at age 9, Feuling wants to be involved in the community in a positive manner to help local youth like his children enjoy the positive aspects of athletics.

“What we’re trying to do with our department and out in the community as well, we’re going to be coming out with a Strategic Plan and Mission very soon and we have two sections dedicated to Everyday Champions that involves community service work and the other one is engagement out in the community. Now with a staff in place we look forward to those opportunities in trying to find ways to honor those Beaver studentathletes that may have gotten awards or recognition. What can we do? Lets bring them to a game and give them the proper recognition and credit that they deserve.”