MISSOULA (AP) — A petition urging the governor and legislators not to confirm Pat Williams' appointment to the state Board of Regents is being countered by one that supports his appointment.
University of Montana football fans started the first petition two weeks ago after Williams made comments to several news outlets saying the university recruited "thugs" to its football program. Petitioners called the statement damaging to the university.
Williams said he was referring to former players who have been convicted of crimes, including one who had been convicted of rape, but the quote was included in stories in the days before the rape trial of former quarterback Jordan Johnson began.
Supporters of Williams launched an online petition on Change.org on Monday urging lawmakers, Gov. Steve Bullock and regents to support Williams. It had nearly 1,500 signatures Wednesday afternoon, compared to just over 1,000 on the opposing petition.
Bullock told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he is not going to intervene, saying it will be up to Williams whether he wants to continue in the job.
Senate President Jeff Essmann said Wednesday that he has received hundreds of "passionate" emails from both sides on the issue. He said the public interest likely means that a Senate committee will hold hearings on the nomination.