Former University of Montana football coach Robin Pflugrad said he was surprised by his firing on Thursday along with athletic director Jim O'Day.

The firings rocked one of the elite programs in the Football Championship Subdivision and come in the wake of arrests and alleged sexual assaults which involve Grizzlies football players.

Pflugrad, who was entering his third season at Montana's head coach, told two reporters from KRTV of Great Falls in a taped interview Thursday afternoon that university president Royce C. Engstrom did not specify the firings were for the program's recent problems, but that he suspected the president sought "a change of leadership."

"I think both Mr. O'Day and I are in still in shock, totally surprised of the situation," said Pflugrad, who was 18-7 in two seasons and led the Grizzlies to the FCS semifinals last season. "I truly believe from the bottom of my heart that my staff and our coaches were on the right page of doing everything correct. And surely we have had some issues as many other schools have had. But I really believe that we disiplined every opportunity that we could."

Pflugrad said the firings occurred in a scheduled meeting that lasted about 12 minutes.

"We've taken I think major steps in every form of discipline," he said, "even for missing a class from the class check to running after practice for missing a tutor appointment or an academic appointment all the way to, unfortunately, more serious situations. And some are alleged."

Pflugrad conducted the interview in a lawyer's office.

Montana's renowned program has won two national championships and finished as national runner-up three times since 1995. Engstrom announced Thursday that interim replacements for Pflugrad and O'Day will be named by the end of the week.