Former Cats Player and Coach, Cliff Hysell, Dead at 72 - News, Sports and Weather

Former Cats Player and Coach, Cliff Hysell, Dead at 72

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Former Montana State football player and head coach Cliff Hysell, a member of the school's Athletics Hall of Fame, passed away Sunday at the age of 72.

A 1966 MSU graduate, Hysell played for the Cats in 1964 and '65, served as an assistant coach from 1972-81, and was the Bobcats head coach from 1992-99. He began his coaching career at Great Falls High in 1966, where he remained until joining Sonny Holland's staff six years later.

“Our thoughts go out to Cliff's daughters Callie and Kristen, his family, and his many, many friends,” said MSU Director of Athletics Peter Fields. “His loyalty to the Bobcats and passion for the game of football made an impact on everyone he met. Cliff Hysell was a one-of-a-kind person, and everyone involved in our program will miss him. I will miss Cliff greatly.”

Hysell became Bobcat football's 29th head coach on December 7, 1991, inheriting a program that had not posted a winning season in seven years. His 1993 squad finished 7-4, and four of Hysell's eight Bobcat squads finished over .500. He finished with 41 career victories, third-most in program history, before retiring after the 1999 season.

“When you think of the people whose lives Cliff touched in and out of football,” said Butch Damberger, who played and coached for Hysell at MSU, “it's a far-reaching network. He affected a lot of people, and gave a lot of coaches their first jobs.”

A Helena native, Hysell starred at Helena High before playing at Utah in 1961-62 before transferring to Montana State. He was part of the school's first Big Sky Championship in 1964 as a lineman, and was an assistant coach on three Big Sky title squads and the 1976 NCAA Division II National Championship team. In 1982 he joined former MSU coach Jim Sweeney's staff at Fresno State, and in a decade there helped craft one of the top defenses in the West. By the time he left Fresno State for the MSU head coaching position before the 1992 season Hysell had been elevated to defensive coordinator.

After retiring from football, Hysell travelled and consulted with several college football programs, re-connecting with friends and peers from his 34-year coaching career. He remained an avid fisherman throughout his life. Hysell's memorial is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 31, at 3 pm in Bobcat Stadium's Stadium Club (third floor), with a reception in the evening at Ferraro's Italian Restaurant in Bozeman.

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