Under stage lights at the Wilma, University of Montana President Seth Bodnar could not have sounded more disingenuous.
“I don’t want to have any tomatoes thrown at me when I say this, but the point of our athletics programs, it’s not to win games,” he said Feb. 26 before an audience of a couple hundred who came for a panel on sexual assault and UM athletics.
A few chairs over from Bodnar sat Griz football coach Bobby Hauck, who was called back to Missoula last fall because his predecessor’s 21-14 overall record, and 7-4 record last year, wasn’t good enough. Also on stage was Athletic Director Kent Haslam, who fired coach Bob Stitt and rehired Hauck, despite Hauck’s track record of player misconduct and media outbursts, because he wanted more wins.
“We need to be winning conference championships,” Haslam said Nov. 20, the day he fired Stitt. “We need to be going to the playoffs. Those are things that are critical to us as an athletic department.”
In theory, “Tackling Sexism,” as the event organized by progressive activist group Missoula Rises was titled, offered the public a chance to hear UM leaders answer hard questions about sexual assault and prove how much progress the university has made on the issue.
Hauck was only there for the participation points, even reminding the crowd that the panel was not a university-sanctioned event. Asked by co-moderator Erin Erickson how he sets the tone for his team, Hauck recited from a notepad a list of sexual-assault awareness activities, including a cupcake sale. Asked what he considers “locker room talk,” Hauck said it wasn’t productive to deal in hypotheticals. Asked then what he would do if he heard a player make a demeaning comment about women, Hauck did say he’d “tell them to stop.”
Panelist Lisa Davey, who started a petition last fall urging UM not to rehire Hauck, explained how Hauck’s first stint as head coach created the toxic culture that led to sexual assaults and public shame (example: player “initiation parties”). But Hauck, seated next to Davey, didn’t bother to respond, saying he’d learned to let people “take their shots.”
Bodnar, Haslam and Hauck offered little candor Monday night. But their questioning did reveal one disappointing insight: The men running UM still don’t get it.