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Plans for legislative investigation delayed

DENVER -- The University of Colorado president said Monday
that she will help form an independent commission to look into
allegations the school uses sex to recruit football players.

President Elizabeth Hoffman said she hopes to convene the
commission in two or three weeks. She said if it turns up any
impropriety or has any recommendations, she will take action.

The move comes less than a week after explosive allegations were
disclosed in a federal civil lawsuit against the state's flagship
university. Boulder County District Attorney Mary Keenan testified
that the school has used sex parties to entice marquis recruits and
ignored her demands to stop the practice.

Hoffman said a key issue is whether the university took
sufficient steps when allegations cropped up. She said football
coach Gary Barnett, who has denied the allegations, gave recruits a
handbook that outlined potential problems with alcohol, date rape
"and all the other tough issues college students face,
unfortunately, on a daily basis."

Barnett also established a 1 a.m. curfew and appointed
chaperones.

"We want the committee to look at these policies and see if
they were appropriate," Hoffman said.

After meeting with Hoffman, state Sens. Peter Groff and Dan Grossman agreed to delay plans for a special
legislative investigation, which could include subpoena powers.

Groff said the panel should
include recruiters and athletes, lawyers and a representative from
a rape crisis support group.

Groff, however, said the panel will not focus on current cases
pending in court -- including lawsuits in which three women say they
were raped at or following a December 2001 party for football
recruits. Keenan made her allegations in a deposition for one of
those suits.

Instead, Groff said, the panel will try to determine what
happened and how to prevent future problems.If it has not made progress
by the end of April, Groff said he will ask the Legislature to hold
hearings.

Groff said he will also ask the Big 12 football conference and
NCAA to examine all recruiting procedures because of problems in
other schools.

"What we're looking at is the culture of recruiting. This is
bigger than the University of Colorado," he said.

An NCAA spokeswoman last week said a task force will convene
this spring to look into recruiting issues.

Hoffman has asked lawmakers to let the university do its own
inquiry into the allegations raised in the lawsuit filed by Lisa
Simpson, a former CU student. Simpson said she was raped at a party
attended by football players and recruits, and she accused the
football program of fostering an environment in which women are
routinely harassed.

Gov. Bill Owens last week threatened to take unspecified action
if the university didn't take action. On NBC's "Today" show,
Owens said Monday that the university says it has changed
recruiting practices over the past seven years to clean up its
image.

"The question that we're asking ourselves is, have those
changes been sufficient?" Owens said. "The case that is currently
involved in most of the publicity is a three-year-old case. The
district attorney checked to see if she could bring criminal
charges. She felt that she couldn't.

"What I've encouraged the university to do is to have a full
and open and public investigation so the citizens of Colorado again
have an understanding that our university is the type of university
that we've always been proud of in the past, and that we can be
proud of in the present and in the future," Owens said.