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Tuesday, January 25, 2005
Updated: January 27, 10:47 AM ET
Football feels first-class while others fly coach

Associated Press

DENVER -- The Colorado football team spent almost $35,000 to give each player an electronic organizer as a reward for making it to a bowl game last month, even as other programs at the school say they are strapped for cash.

You have to make some hard choices. ... We'll do something [for the annual senior banquet] -- if we have burgers on a grill in my back yard -- we'll do something.
Ceal Barry, Colorado women's basketball coach

CU bought 100 Dell Axim hand-held computers at $349.23 each, according to university spending records reviewed by the Rocky Mountain News. They were a reward for playing in the EV1.Net Houston Bowl, a game Colorado won over Texas-El Paso.

Men's basketball coach Ricardo Patton has cut the use of chartered airplanes for his team, saving money but forcing them to miss many more classes. Women's basketball coach Ceal Barry is cutting other costs in her budget so she can keep using chartered flights.

Interim Athletic Director Jack Lengyel said he doesn't favor taking away gifts from athletes in one sport to help solve financial woes elsewhere.

"That's why we exist, is for student-athlete opportunities, and to deny them full access to their successes with regards to championships to me is not a way to solve a financial problem within the athletic department," Lengyel said Monday.

Big 12 spokesman Bob Burda says giving electronic gadgets to athletes is common around the conference.

"I know it's not uncommon to get DVD players, iPods," he said. "It's generally electronics, things the kids can use, things they wouldn't normally have."

Colorado's athletic department is now more than $3 million in debt this year, a deficit driven in part by the school's struggle to lease luxury boxes and club seating at Folsom Field. Last year, the school asked the men's and women's basketball teams and the volleyball teams to stop flying on chartered planes to save money.

Patton complained publicly last week that his players were missing class because commercial flights offer less flexibility. He met with Lengyel on Monday.

"Both of us mutually have the same concerns regarding the academic concerns about the basketball team," Lengyel said. "We're working to resolve that as quickly as possible."

Patton and Barry both said they didn't support taking away gifts from the football players. Patton, however, said he has "cut as many corners as I think we can cut."

Barry decided her assistant coaches didn't need to attend an annual convention, and she has cut back on expenses for the annual senior banquet.

"You have to make some hard choices," she said. "Maybe we'll have some basketball guy drop money so our kids can have a banquet. We'll do something -- if we have burgers on a grill in my back yard -- we'll do something."