BOZEMAN — With both an endzone and statue immortalized after him, anyone who has ever been to a football game inside Bobcat Stadium immediately knew who Sonny Holland was.
Sonny Holland, legend of Montana State Football, dies at 84
He was a player, a coach — but more importantly — a friend to anyone who was a fan of the Bobcats.
“His impact on this program, on this university, will last forever," head coach Brent Vigen stated.
Known as “The Greatest Bobcat of Them All," Allyn A. "Sonny Holland" will always be one of the most revered figures in Montana State history.
From winning a national championship as a player to then doing so as a coach, his legacy within Bobcat Football is eternal, touching the hearts of many even decades upon retirement.
“He means a lot," senior running back Isaiah Ifanse said. "The first time I met him I was kind of like in awe. We always touch the trophy out there, and it’s different when the physical presence is there and he has a chance to talk to you.”
Born in 1938, Coach Holland was a graduate of Butte High School before moving to Bozeman in 1956 to play center for the Bobcats.
Making an immediate impact as a freshman, it was that same year the team won their first-ever national title cementing a share of the NAIA championship.
Holland’s coaching career started shortly after his playing days, where he did spend two seasons with the Bobcats as an assistant, but it wasn’t until 1970 that Holland was called home for what would be his final coaching coach stop, compiling three conference titles and of course the program’s second national championship (1976).
“Had the good fortune of getting to know him a little bit - being around him a little bit – but more so just learning about him from former players, from former colleagues, fans," Vigen added. "He was one of a kind not only as a player and a coach but just as a person.”
Following the ‘77 season, Holland traded in his whistle for an office role serving as both the director of alumni relations and advisor to the university president.
He retired in ‘92 but still remained close to the program even leading up to his final month.
“Saw him mid-season," Vigen recalled. "I think it was the week of our first Weber game, and it was good to spend a little time with him... We certainly want to take this as far as we can for Coach Holland.”
As new generations of players, coaches, and Bobcat fans learn about the blueprint Coach Holland laid decades ago, his legacy will live on forever inside the football program — especially knowing he’ll always have a watchful eye over Bobcat Stadium.
In honor of Sonny Holland and the impact he left on Montana State Football, the team will be wearing a special decal this Friday night for their quarterfinal game against William & Mary.
A moment of silence is also expected before their 8:15 p.m. MT kickoff.