Thugs and Thuggery

Former Congressman Pat Williams spent nine terms in the U.S. House of Representatives representing Montana from 1979-1997. Most folks would find it hard to remember anything remarkable about Williams’ career in the U.S. House. Maybe readers can refresh my memory…

So Pat Williams’ claim to fame might be a February 2013 quote in the New York Times about the trial beginning for Jordan Johnson, the former starting quarterback at the University of Montana. Williams said, “The university has recruited thugs for its football team, and this thuggery has got to stop.” Just before that sentence, Williams said, “We’ve had sex assaults, vandalism, beatings by football players.”

Williams is currently serving as a Montana University System Regent (his term expires in 2019). He also attended the University of Montana.

And I thought University Regents and alumni were supposed to promote their university…

Not long after the comments became public, University of Montana President Royce Engstrom rode in and tried to pick up the spirits of the demoralized Griz Nation. He sent an e-mail to students and faculty saying, in part, “I want to reaffirm that The University of Montana values highly the many contributions of our student-athletes.”

I bet he especially “values highly” the student-athletes when Washington–Grizzly Stadium is bursting at the seams with 25,000-plus fans.

The Board of Regents distanced themselves from Williams’ remarks, too.

Other folks thought that old Pat Williams hit the nail on the head. He’s even defended his remarks.

At a small university in a small town and in a state where people are few and far between, student-athletes breaking the law get more attention. It does not diminish their law-breaking acts. Recently those terrible actions gained national attention and left a very black mark on the university.

A friend of mine once joked that the annual Griz-Cat (Montana State University) football game would have to be played in Deer Lodge (where the state prison is located) because it seemed to him that every time he picked up a newspaper or watched the local news he would read about players getting in trouble with the law.

Pat Williams was not joking about thugs and thuggery.  That should concern all Montanans considerably…

Follow Jack on Twitter @TheWesternWord



  1. Am I afraid to support Pat using my name? Yes. Am I ashamed that I am afraid to support Pat publicly? Yes.

    • Looks like you’re between a rock and a hard place…

  2. Caveat: I do not worship at the altar of football.

    So, it’s not like Pat Williams is making up the list of offenses or the fact the there is a federal investigation. From experience, I know that any off-hand comment, or the most inflammatory, will often be cherry-picked for an article or interview. What else did he say that was not included, I wonder?

    From my perspective, his comments may have been more carefully worded, but simply addressed a reality. The other Regents and those outraged at the comments might consider the possibility of issues with recruiting and oversight of student athletes. What I have seen from most of the officials involved is the perpetuation of denial towards the frequency and impact of sexual assault. I should think that we would all demand higher standards for our public institutions.

    • Elizabeth – Thanks for your comments. I think Williams’ comments made people think and that’s a good thing. -Jack

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