MISSOULA (AP) — Former U.S. Rep. Pat Williams has defended and repeated his contention that the University of Montana is recruiting "thugs" for its football team.
The Democrat, who is now a member of the Board of Regents that oversees the Montana university system, first made his comments in a New York Times story on Thursday.
Williams said university football players have been implicated in a spate of sexual assaults, vandalism and beatings.
"The university has recruited thugs for its football team and this thuggery has got to stop," he told the newspaper.
Williams defended those comments in an interview with KGVO-AM (http://bit.ly/XbcJ1I ), in which he said there have been too many UM athletes convicted or suspended over rapes, assaults or burglaries during the past year.
"We need a better recruiting system because the current recruiting system is letting in too many thugs. And that has to stop," Williams told the Missoula radio station. "As a member of the Board of Regents, I intend to do what I can to make sure that very limited thuggery stops."
He said he was not referring to ex-quarterback Jordan Johnson, whose rape trial began Friday with jury selection, or to football athletes in general.
Johnson denies the accusation that he raped an acquaintance last year while they watched a movie together at her home.
The case is set against a backdrop of NCAA and federal investigations of how the school and the city of Missoula respond to rape allegations on campus.
An outside investigator found nine alleged rapes or sexual assaults involving students had occurred between September 2010 and December 2011, including at least two that hadn't been reported.
One led to former Montana football player Beau Donaldson pleading guilty to rape and being sentenced to 10 years in prison. Other players and former players were arrested for drunken driving, assault and other charges.
The Board of Regents distanced itself from Williams' comments, saying he was speaking for himself.
"We as a board do not agree with the statements made," Board of Regents Chairwoman Angela McLean said in a statement. "Each board member is entitled to his own opinions, and these comments do not reflect that of the board as a whole."