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Friday, May 14, 2004
Panel to submit report to CU officials

Associated Press

DENVER -- The panel investigating the University of Colorado's embattled football program wrapped up its work Friday by approving a 40- to 50-page report expected to provide a blueprint for change.

The eight members of the panel refused to say what was in the report, which was approved unanimously after six hours of closed-door work and will be given the Board of Regents on Monday. It will be formally released Wednesday.

Chairwoman Peggy Lamm said she hopes the school takes the report to heart. She said university President Betsy Hoffman has promised to act.

At least nine women have said they were sexually assaulted by players or recruits since 1997, though no charges have been filed. Three of the women have sued the school in federal court, accusing it of failing to protect them from being assaulted.

Attorney General Ken Salazar, tapped as a special prosecutor at the height of the scandal in February, said a review has turned up no fresh evidence warranting criminal charges. Boulder police this week also cleared two football players in one of the cases.

The scandal has dominated Colorado news for months and has already spurred an overhaul of the football recruiting program. The NCAA is also weighing changes to recruiting guidelines nationwide.

Football coach Gary Barnett was suspended for comments he made in two of the cases, including that of former Colorado player Katie Hnida, who said she was raped by a teammate in 2000. Hoffman has said Barnett's fate depends on the outcome of the panel's investigation.

The regents' panel met 15 times, heard from dozens of witnesses and was given hundreds of pages of documents to review. Some depositions in the lawsuits were released just this week.

Patty Klopfenstein, the mother of tight end Joel Klopfenstein, said she expects little new information from the regents' panel. She said the scandal has tarnished the reputations of dozens of players who did nothing wrong.

"This is a huge black eye for every player on that team," she said.

Klopfenstein said she wants an apology from the university, but does not expect to get it. She said it will take years for the football program to recover.

Panel member Jacqueline St. Joan, a judge and victims' advocate, said she was frustrated the panel was not given subpoena power by the Legislature.

"I think it limited our ability to hear from the women who claim to have been victims," St. Joan said.

She said she hopes the report will "put to rest some of the questions of whether there are others out there who wanted to come forward," but she was surprised when Salazar disclosed his investigation had turned up a ninth case the panel was unaware of.

St. Joan said the report will at least let the public know that date rape is prevalent on campuses, fueled by alcohol and lax supervision.

"Maybe we helped the public to see that this is not the stranger lurking in the bush," she said.

The scandal erupted in January after the public release of a deposition in which Boulder County District Attorney Mary Keenan accused Colorado's athletic department of using sex and alcohol as recruiting tools. University officials have vehemently denied the charge.

The deposition was given in one of the federal lawsuits. The three female defendants say the school broke gender equity law by failing to provide a safe environment, contributing to their rapes by football athletes in 2001. They are seeking unspecified damages and sweeping reforms.