Update – UM President Sends Email To Students Regarding Williams’ Comments
Below, find the email message sent Friday morning to students and faculty on the UM campus regarding the comments made by former Congressman and current Montana Regent Pat Williams about the Grizzly football program.
I want to reaffirm that The University of Montana values highly the many contributions of our student-athletes. As a group, they work tirelessly to achieve excellence on the court or playing field, in the classroom, and in the community. Our student-athletes bring countless hours of enjoyment to members of the University, to Missoula, across Montana, and to Griz fans around the world. Athletics is a part of the fabric of the University and it enriches our learning environment. Our student-athletes are students first, recently achieving their 15th semester in a row of a grade point average above 3.0 and the highest graduation rate in the Big Sky Conference. Last fall the student-athletes had the highest collective academic performance since the University began recording. Are there individual problems on occasion? Of course, and we address those promptly and effectively through a recently revised Student-athlete Conduct Code. The actions of individuals do not characterize our student-athletes in general any more than they do for other groups of people on campus. Our student-athletes are supported by hard-working coaches, support staff, and faculty. Let’s congratulate our student-athletes and thank them for their hard work and their role as representatives of The University of Montana.
Royce C. Engstrom
The University of Montana
Former Congressman Pat Williams, now a member of the Montana Board of Regents, is quoted in a New York Times article saying “The university has recruited thugs for its football team, and this thuggery has got to stop.”
Update-6 p.m. Thursday, February 7
On Thursday, Feb. 7 members of the Montana University System’s governing board addressed comments made by Regent Pat Williams that appeared in news reports in the New York Times and the ESPN online news service.
On behalf of herself and the other regents, Board of Regents Chair Angela McLean, noted Thursday that, “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 Board of Regents is confident that the student athletes, coaching staff and administration are committed to representing The University of Montana and the Montana University System with both honor and integrity. McLean said student athletes across the Montana University System are known for their success in athletic competition, academic achievement in the classroom, and volunteer service in their communities.
The New York Times article was centered on the report of the start of the Jordan Johnson trial in Missoula on Friday.
When reached in Missoula on Thursday afternoon, Williams said the New York Times reporter had contacted him over a week ago, and he did not know the quote would be used in conjunction with the Johnson trial.
That being said, Williams stood by the comment itself, due to the many news reports over the past year about present and former University of Montana Grizzly athletes being involved in sexual assaults, beatings, robberies and drug arrests.
Williams said he fully intends, as a member of the Board of Regents, to look into ways that student-athletes are recruited. He said he learned that recruiters are not allowed access to any arrest records, if any records, that a student-athlete might have, due to privacy issues.
Williams was laudatory over the efforts of University of Montana President Royce Engstrom to raise awareness on campus regarding sexual assault. In fact, Williams said a highly ranked law enforcement official told him he had never seen actions by a University taken so quick and effectively as those initiated by Engstrom.
Williams also said he and head Montana Grizzly football coach Mick Delaney are boyhood friends from Butte, and he plans to sit down with the coach to discuss ideas to help with the recruiting process in Missoula. He said Delaney is the right man for the job in helping student-athletes understand their responsibilities to be good students and good, law-abiding citizens.
In a late Thursday afternoon conversation with Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian, he said that the comments made by Congressman Williams are his own opinions, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Board of Regents.
Former Congressman and Present Regent Pat Williams