Engstrom defends Grizzly athletes after 'thugs' comment


MISSOULA, Mont. - The University of Montana is pushing back against comments made by former congressman Pat Williams calling some University of Montana football recruits "thugs."

UM President Royce Engstrom sent an email Friday to UM students and faculty defending the school's athletes.

"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," Engstrom wrote.

"With Student Athletes, and also with all students, there are hundreds of thousands of stories of contributions they're making to the community, great work they're doing," said University of Montana Vice President Peggy Kuhr. "We want to make sure that the full context of what the university and our students are involved in is told."

Williams is currently on the Board of Regents for the Montana University system. He made the controversial comments to a New York Times reporter.

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

KGVO talk show host Peter Christian interviewed Williams Thursday morning. Christian said Williams defended his comments to the New York Times, but did clarify that he didn't think all of Montana University football players are thugs.

Christian said the interview was a topic of discussion Friday with callers on his show.

"Some (callers) were very, very upset with Mr. Williams, who thought he should resign or be removed from the board of regents," said Christian. "Others said he was only telling the truth, and that the University of Montana has had problems in the last year, and he's one of the only ones to be brave enough to stand up."

For a link to the full interview, click here.

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