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Rape allegation is sixth to surface

DENVER -- Police said Thursday they are investigating
another allegation of sexual assault involving a University of
Colorado football player, the sixth to surface in the school's
burgeoning athletics scandal.

Boulder Police Chief Mark Beckner said the alleged assault
occurred in August 2002, but would not discuss details. He said a
police report, with parts blacked out, would be released later
Thursday.

The news came hours after football coach Gary Barnett was placed
on leave after criticizing the athletic ability of former Colorado
player Katie Hnida after she said she was raped by a teammate four
years ago. He called her an "awful" player.

University President Elizabeth Hoffman also said she was
dismayed by comments attributed to Barnett in a 2001 police report
filed by another woman who said she was raped by a football player.

Barnett, 57, will be on paid leave while an independent
committee investigates allegations involving the football program,
including rapes, alcohol-fueled recruiting parties, escort services
and strippers.

Barnett said he disagreed with Hoffman's decision, but would
accept it as a "team player."

The coach's comments about Hnida, 22, were "extremely
inappropriate and insensitive," and were the main reason Barnett
was put on leave, Hoffman said. "Rape is a horrific allegation and
it should be taken seriously," she said.

After chastising Barnett privately Wednesday, Hoffman learned
Boulder police had released a report that quoted an unidentified
woman as saying Barnett told her he "would back his player 100
percent'' if rape charges were pursued. The woman did not file
charges.

"We are utterly distressed over the information contained in
that report," Hoffman said.

She said she learned of the woman's rape allegation recently,
but it was unclear when Barnett first knew of it.

The accusations over the past three weeks stem from federal
lawsuits filed against the school by three women who say they were
raped by players or recruits at or after an off-campus party in
December 2001, the same year referred to in one of two Boulder
police reports. The other is from 2002. Hnida's allegation is from
2000.

No assault charges have been filed in any of the cases.

The university, responding in part to a prosecutor's allegation
that it uses sex and alcohol to entice recruits, chose the final
members of the independent panel that will investigate and report
by April 30. Hoffman also said she would hire an administrator to
oversee athletics, reporting directly to her and Chancellor Richard
Byyny.

A spokesman for the investigative committee declined comment on
Barnett's leave.

Hnida, who joined the University of New Mexico football team in
2002 as a walk-on, told Sports Illustrated in a story made public
Tuesday that she was assaulted in the summer of 2000 at the home of
a teammate. She said she escaped after the telephone rang.

Asked why she didn't tell police, she said she was afraid of the
player and didn't want a "media mess."

Hnida said she has been in contact with Colorado authorities but
did not expect to file charges.

After her story was released, Barnett was asked by a reporter
about her abilities. "It was obvious Katie was not very good. She
was awful," he said. "Katie was not only a girl, she was
terrible. OK? There's no other way to say it."

During a brief news conference in Boulder late Wednesday,
Barnett apologized but said his remarks had been taken out of
context or misinterpreted.

Hoffman said the coach "was not apologetic" when she discussed
his remarks.

"It was my feeling ... that he did not understand the
seriousness of the comments he had made the day before," Hoffman
said.

Hnida, 22, issued a statement through UNM Tuesday, saying she
was "healing" from "horrors endured" while on Colorado's
football team. Last fall, she said she didn't return to Colorado
for several reasons, including "an incident during that summer."

Byyny said an interim head coach would be named, most likely an
assistant coach currently on the staff.

Gov. Bill Owens, who warned the university to investigate, said
he agreed with Hoffman's decision to place Barnett on leave. CU
athletic director Richard Tharp also supported the decision.

A women's advocate, however, said Barnett and Tharp should be
fired.

"I'm perplexed as to what it will take for CU to finally figure
out that the coach and athletic director have to go," said Regina
Cowles, president of the Boulder chapter of the National
Organization for Women.

Ryan Johanningmeier, a team captain when Hnida played at
Colorado, said some teammates could be "a bit nasty."

"However, we all get called names. I got called names," he
told ABC-TV's "Good Morning America" on Thursday.

Johanningmeier said that when one player's comments about Hnida
got too personal, Barnett "gave this guy a pretty good reprimand
in front of the team, reminded us once again that this was a player
on the team who needs to be treated with respect. A lot of it
stopped at that point, from what I saw."

Barnett was hired five years ago with the goal of ending an era
of loose recruiting practices and return the team to national
prominence.

Barnett, whose contract runs through 2006, has led Colorado to a
Big 12 Conference title and a BCS bowl game .

During the last two seasons, nine players were suspended for
violations of team rules, including curfew and behavior standards.