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Tuesday, May 18, 2004
NOW, victims' advocate call for firings

Associated Press

DENVER -- The big question surrounding the University of Colorado recruiting scandal remains: Will anyone lose their job?

The final report from a Board of Regents-appointed panel singles out four officials for problems that put students at risk and allowed misconduct in the football recruiting program.

University President Betsy Hoffman was criticized for failing to keep track of the athletics department. Chancellor Richard Byyny was portrayed as an ineffective manager on the Boulder campus he has overseen since 1997. Athletic Director Dick Tharp ignored orders. Football coach Gary Barnett, now suspended, violated sexual harassment policy.

The report, released Tuesday, did not suggest firing anyone. But it called on Hoffman to assess the jobs of the three men, while urging the regents to decide whether Hoffman was up to the job of restoring Colorado's reputation.

University spokeswoman Michelle Ames declined comment on the report until the regents discuss it during a public meeting Wednesday. The regents will vote on whether to accept the report and pass it on to Hoffman.

Regent Jim Martin declined to say whether any university officials should lose their jobs.

"I have my own personal opinions," Martin said. "That has to be done thoughtfully, with a great deal of reflection."

The report's conclusions about systemic failings, cultural issues and lax oversight of the athletic department are bigger than "Jim Martin or President Hoffman" or other individuals, Martin said.

He fears some regents may want to just pass the report to Hoffman and do nothing. Other regents declined comment.

"They went as close as they could without asking for them to be removed or fired," said Kathy Redmond, founder of the National Coalition Against Violent Athletes. She said the panel put together a strong report despite a lack of subpoena power and the inability to get all the details it wanted from the university.

The report said there was evidence that drugs, alcohol and sex were used to entice football recruits, but nothing to suggest university officials were directly involved. And the report did not directly address allegations from nine women who say they were raped by football players or recruits since 1997.

No charges have been filed and Boulder police recently cleared two football players in one of the cases. Three of the women, however, have sued the school in federal court for allegedly failing to protect their educational rights under Title IX gender-equity law.

The National Women's Law Center in Washington said the report bolsters the women's lawsuits against CU. The center, co-counsel in one of the cases, cited the report's reference to "failings that jeopardized students' safety."

The National Organization for Women called on Hoffman to fire Tharp and Barnett. Redmond went further, saying Hoffman and Byyny should also be fired because they didn't address allegations of rape and misconduct.

"They need to get rid of the leadership and follow the example of the Air Force Academy," Redmond said. "It's clear the leadership was derelict in all of their duties."

The academy's top leaders were ousted last year after dozens of female cadets said they were ignored or punished for reporting they had been sexually assaulted. The school near Colorado Springs has made sweeping policy changes; CU, meanwhile, has overhauled its football recruiting program.

E. Scott Adler, a political science professor at Colorado, said he is optimistic the regents will adopt the report's recommendation that the school approve changes suggested by Boulder faculty.

The faculty on May 6 proposed reforms of university athletics, including requiring athletes meet the same admission standards as other students and consolidating responsibility for athletics in the chancellor's office.

"These kinds of changes would make CU the model program that President Hoffman says she wants to have," said Adler, who headed the committee that wrote the proposed reforms. He said the proposals would allow Colorado to lead the way for other universities struggling with the same problems.

"This very problem exists everywhere. You have autonomous athletic departments that operate, oftentimes, apart from their universities," Adler said. "Their budgets aren't accountable to the same things the rest of the university's budgets are."

Gov. Bill Owens, who asked Attorney General Ken Salazar to investigate the scandal, said he was "very concerned" at the panel's findings.

"I have a lot of confidence in Dr. Hoffman," Owens said. "I assume she will make the right decisions regarding what should be done to help make sure CU restores its focus."