Montana State fires coach after string of ex-player legal problems

Updated: May 18, 2007, 9:04 PM ET
Associated Press

Montana State fired football coach Mike Kramer on Friday, several days after another former Bobcats athlete was arrested on drug charges.

Kramer was 40-43 in seven seasons at the Bozeman school, including an 8-5 mark last year. He led the Bobcats to three Big Sky Conference titles and three NCAA playoff appearances.

"It starts with leadership," athletic director Peter Fields said. "When you look at our football program's recent history, it is apparent that its direction does not fit with what this university is all about."

Fields said he made the decision Friday, which was confirmed by school president Geoff Gamble and vice president for student affairs Allen Yarnell.

Kramer was not in his office late Friday and did not return a call to his cell phone seeking comment.

Former wide receiver Rick Gatewood was arrested this week on drug charges and is accused of using his athletic scholarship money to traffic cocaine from California in the Bozeman area. His brother also faces drug charges.

Gatewood is the sixth former Montana State athlete arrested or charged with crimes involving drugs or murder in the past year.

Gatewood, a Richmond, Calif., native, was an all-Big Sky Conference wide receiver in 2004 and 2005. He signed with the Oakland Raiders as a free agent last summer, but didn't make the team, and was expected to try out with baseball's Philadelphia Phillies this month.

Montana State cornerback Andre Fuller pleaded not guilty in March to charges he sold cocaine to a confidential informant last June. He was suspended from the football team while the case is investigated.

Former wide receiver Edward Sullivan of Carlsbad, Calif., and Derrick Davis Jr., a former cornerback from Santa Monica, Calif., also have been charged with selling drugs.

And last June, former redshirt football player John Lebrum and former Bobcat basketball player Branden Miller were charged with murder and kidnapping in the shooting death of suspected drug dealer Jason Wright. They have pleaded not guilty and are scheduled for trial in the coming months.

In October 2004, former assistant head football coach Joe O'Brien was sentenced to four years in prison for his role in a methamphetamine distribution conspiracy.

A nationwide search for Kramer's replacement will begin immediately, sports information director Bill Lamberty said.

Montana State opens its 2007 regular season Sept. 1 at Texas A&M.

The Bobcats posted their first postseason win in 22 years when they beat Furman 31-13 in the Division I-AA championships last fall, and finished the season ranked 10th in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. Montana State was beaten 38-17 by eventual champion Appalachian State in the I-AA quarterfinals.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press