BUTTE – Talk about the ultimate dream job.
In the latest version of a local-boy-makes-good story, Matt Stepan has been chosen to be the next athletic director at Montana Tech.
The graduate of Butte Central Catholic School and Montana Tech, will start his new job on Sept. 1.
Stepan, who has been working as the college’s External Associate Athletic Director since 2014, will replace head football coach Chuck Morrell. Morrell has been holding down both positions since 2014.
“When you get the opportunity to work in athletics in your hometown, it just doesn’t get much better than that,” Stepan said. “It’s a job that any athlete dreams of.”
Stepan spent the last three years connecting the dots between the hillside campus and the rest of the Butte community. He has been active in fund-raising events and is a familiar face on many local sports scenes. It’s not uncommon to see Stepan refereeing high school football games or wrestling matches.
He has also been active in coaching circles at the Little Guy Football and Little League levels. He was the manager of the Mile High Little League 8- to 10-year-old all-star team which won the District 2 championship last month.
“I think it just naturally progressed that way,” he said of his rise in the department. “I was the guy that got to be the face of the department to the community and the alumni. And then taking on a little bit more of a leadership role in our department over the last year or so, I think it was just something that presented itself.”
It was a little more than three years ago that the Montana Tech athletics department was in disarray. Former athletic director Charles Bradley had been fired after less than a year on the job, prompting women’s basketball coach DeeAnn Kraft and one of her assistants to quit in protest during the middle of the season.
Former athletic director and football coach Bob Green took over as interim A.D., while Lindsie Wilson carried the lady hoopsters across the finish line at the end of the season.
A search for Bradley’s replacement ended in the summer of 2014 with the hiring of Dave Lau but he resigned after a couple of months for personal reasons.
The next search ended with Morrell.
Morrell took over a program that was in need of stability as well as direction, and worked tirelessly to prop the department back to a respectable level. He did all of this while guiding the Oredigger football team to the last two Frontier Conference titles and the NAIA national quarterfinals.
“It was an opportunity at a time when Tech Athletics needed some leadership and the chancellor (Don Blackketter) asked me to step into the role,” Morrell said. “I really embraced it and I’m really pleased with where the department is at right now.
“It took a lot of work but you can see the success the football team has had, the volleyball team went to the national tournament, our women’s basketball team has a winning record and the men’s basketball team is on the way.
“Everything is moving in the right direction so it seemed like the appropriate time to redial back in on my true passion. Deep down in my heart, I’m a football coach.”
Now that he’s stepped away from the AD position, Morrell is looking forward to spending a little more time with his family.
“On a personal level, it’s really big for me,” the coach added. “The world of coaching football is seven days a week for about eight months of the year. The extra 2 ½ months of seven days a week tacked on to the end of my schedule was certainly a grind.
“I’ve got a family and two daughters that I’m crazy about. I’ve got to give so much credit to my wife after my disappearing for most of the year instead of three-quarters of the year. She’s been unbelievable.”
Morrell thought that Stepan was the perfect and natural fit to take over the department.
“I think it’s a match made in heaven,” Morrell said. “He bleeds the colors. I can’t think of a better setup for us. I certainly put full faith in Matt and I made that clear to the chancellor.”
Stepan is grateful for the work that Morrell and others in the department put forth in pushing the program to its current level. He knows that it will take hard work to keep things moving forward and welcomes the new challenges that will come with the position.
“I’m really thankful to Chuck for the direction that he’s given over the last three years and to Chancellor Blackketter for having the faith in me to not shake things up and instead continue down the positive path we’re on now,” said Stepan, a two-time All-Conference selection at Tech, and a state wrestling champion at Butte Central. “I’m just thankful for the opportunity.”