Butte, Montana State football legend and coach Sonny Holland dies at 84, in December 2022.
Who is Sonny Holland?
Sonny Holland, sometimes known as Allyn A. Holland, was an American football player and coach who lived from March 22, 1938, until December 3, 2022. From 1971 until 1977, he served as the head coach at Montana State University in Bozeman, his alma school. In 1972 and 1976, Holland led the Bobcats to two Big Sky championships. In the 1976 Division II playoffs, they won all three of their postseason contests and claimed the national championship.
As a lineman at Montana State from 1956 to 1959, Holland, a native of Butte, who graduated from Butte High School, was an All-American for small colleges at the center. He worked as Jim Sweeney's assistant coach at Montana State and then for a year at Washington State in Pullman.
Sonny Holland Career Journey
After his playing career, Holland continued coaching, first as an assistant at Bozeman High School in 1961 and then as a full-time offensive line coach at MSU from 1962 to 1964 under Herb Agocs. From 1965 to 1967, he was the first head football coach at Charles M. Russell High School in Great Falls.
The following year, in 1968, Holland returned to the college ranks at Washington State as an assistant under another Bobcat, Jim Sweeney. That was before accepting a one-season head coaching position at Western Montana College (now Montana Western) in Dillon in 1969, where he received Coach of the Year honors from the Frontier Conference.
Before taking over as head coach in 1971 as Tom Parac's personally chosen replacement, Holland returned to the Bobcats in 1970 as defensive line coach (Paris ascended to the role of athletic director in 1971). The MSU football team won league championships in 1972 and 1976 under Holland, who oversaw one of its most prosperous periods.
The 1976 season saw Holland lead MSU to a 12-1 record, a Big Sky championship, and a 24-13 victory over Akron in the NCAA Division II championship game played in Wichita Falls, Texas. At Montana State, Holland had a 47-24-1 record in charge. His one season at Western ended with a 7-0 record, giving him a career record of 7-0, giving him a winning percentage of.684, and a career record of 54-24-1.
Head coach of the Bobcats
As the head coach of the Bobcats, Holland, also known to his team as “Chief,” had a 6-1 record versus rival Montana. According to MSU, the Bobcats defeated the Grizzlies in 17 of 22 games from the time Holland came to Montana State as a freshman to the time of his retirement.
Two of Montana State's three national titles involved Holland. The NAIA in 1956, NCAA Division II in 1976, and NCAA Division I-AA (now Division I FCS) in 1984 are the only levels at which the Bobcats have won championships in collegiate football.
In 2011, the south end zone of Bobcat Stadium was bowled in to add several thousand seats, an area christened as the “Sonny Holland Zone.” In 2016, a nine-foot bronze statue of Holland was unveiled outside Bobcat Stadium as a tribute.
Sonny Holland Cause of Death
Sonny Holland died on December 3, 2022, at the age of 84. Holland's death comes after “a courageous battle” with Parkinson's disease, his daughter Jody Delaney told 406mtsports.com on Sunday.
Deanna, Holland's 50-year wife, died before he did. Wendy (Gator) Rivers, Heidi (Eric) Vinje, and Jody (Tyler) Delaney, as well as a sizable number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren, are his surviving daughters.