Colorado puts Barnett on leave

Coach allegedly attempted to stop possible rape victim from going to the police

College Football

February 19, 2004|By THE DENVER POST

University of Colorado president Betsy Hoffman put football coach Gary Barnett on administrative leave last night, saying she was "utterly distressed" by an allegation that Barnett had tried to intimidate an alleged rape victim from going to police.

Hoffman made the decision after learning the details of an alleged September 2001 sexual assault by a football player, she said. She also cited comments Barnett made about another of the five women who now claim to have been raped by Colorado football players or recruits, including former kicker Katie Hnida, who says she was raped by a teammate.

A Boulder (Colo.) Police Department report released yesterday confirmed a report that Barnett, when told in 2001 of an alleged rape by a player, tried to intimidate the woman making the allegation.

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

On Tuesday afternoon, while Hoffman and chancellor Richard Byyny told reporters at a Denver news conference that they would hire someone to monitor the athletic department, Barnett was in Boulder, telling reporters there that Hnida was a "terrible" kicker and that she "couldn't kick the ball through the uprights."

Earlier in the day, Hoffman criticized Barnett for his comments the day before, saying he was "blaming the victim."

At a news conference late last night, Hoffman said, "We did not act in haste, we will not act in haste in the future, but we believe we've done the right thing."

The woman whose allegation became public last night told police in October 2001 that Barnett responded to her complaint by saying "that he would back his player 100 percent if she took this forward in the criminal process," according to a 16-page Boulder Police Department account of the incident.

The department omitted the name of the player and the name of the alleged victim from the report.

The report said that police closed the case because the woman wanted "to wait and see" if Barnett made good on his promise to take care of the problem.

University officials were surprised to learn of the report yesterday, Hoffman said.

Barnett fell victim to the scandal exactly three weeks after it was created by the public release of depositions taken in the federal lawsuit of a woman suing the school.

That woman, Lisa Simpson, alleges she was gang-raped at a party at her off-campus apartment in Boulder attended by football players and recruits Dec. 7, 2001. Since she filed her federal lawsuit in 2002, two other woman have filed similar suits.

All three are suing under Title IX, the federal law against gender discrimination in federally funded schools.

The three women allege that athletic department officials like Barnett and athletic director Dick Tharp have known that football recruits were being entertained in ways that could lead to sexual assault, but failed to stop the practice.

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