Drawing the ire of Griz Nation

2013-02-12T15:34:00Z 2013-02-12T19:55:10Z Drawing the ire of Griz NationGreg Rachac The Billings Gazette

Pat Williams, a Regent with the Montana University System and a former U.S. Congressman, stirred the pot last week with controversial statements he made to the New York Times that accused the Montana football program of recruiting "thugs."

Said Williams:

"We've had sex assaults, vandalism, beatings by football players. The university has recruited thugs for its football team, and this thuggery has got to stop."

Provocative words indeed. These statements drew resentment from Griz fans and boosters all over the place, and now they want Williams ousted.

A privately circulated petition has been drafted and will be sent to newly elected Gov. Steve Bullock, asking him to "publicly censure and terminate Mr. Pat Williams for statements that were not merely irresponsible, but directly and intentionally damaging to the student athletes and those associated with the University of Montana."

Williams has since said he stands by his statements, but added the caveat that he was not referring to suspended Griz quarterback Jordan Johnson, who is now embroiled in a high-profile criminal trial on the charge of sexual intercourse without consent. 

UM president Royce Engstrom, who has been eviscerated in many circles for his controversial firings of football coach Robin Pflugrad and athletic director Jim O'Day last March, countered Williams' statements and stood up for the student-athletes in a campus-wide email one day later.

Also, Board of Regents chair Angela McLean said Williams' comments do not reflect the opinion of the BOR, though she also noted Williams' right to his opinion.

It seems the petition for Gov. Bullock to remove Williams has gained a bit of traction. Williams' term on the BOR doesn't expire until 2019. Who knows where this will all lead? Maybe nowhere. At the very least, it's just another twist to already complicated situation.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Sportswriter for The Billings Gazette covering Montana and Montana State athletics in addition to various high school sports.

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