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Missoula

Feb 8, 2013 11:01 AM by MTN News - Missoula

"Thugs" comment by Pat Williams on UM football sparks backlash

MISSOULA - Recent comments made by former U.S. Representative Pat Williams of Montana - who currently serves as a Montana University System Regent - are causing a backlash from other regents and the University of Montana.

Williams is quoted in a New York Times article about the UM Grizzly football program as saying, "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."

Williams told us Thursday night that the quote was accurate, but that he was only talking about a few student athletes, and he was not in any way referring to the majority of them.

The Board of Regents emailed a statement to media outlets from Chair Angela McLean about Williams' comments on Thursday.

"We as a board do not agree with the statements made. Each board member is entitled to his own opinions, and these comments do not reflect that of the board as a whole," the email read.

The statement went on to say that the Regents are confident student-athletes are committed to representing the University of Montana with honor and integrity.

Williams told us he was disappointed the regents never asked him to explain his position and the context of his quotes to the New York Times, which he gave 12 days ago.

UM athletic director Kent Haslam reacted to the comments Williams made on Thursday night.

"I think it's always difficult when you cast a broad brush. There's always a lot of people that it doesn't represent at all. But again, we're moving forward, we're learning from the past, we're getting better. I couldn't be more proud of the people that represent the University of Montana," he said.

The New York Times article, and a similar one on espn.com, focused in part on the rape trial of suspended University of Montana quarterback Jordan Johnson, which gets underway Friday.

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