Skip to comments.CU puts Barnett on leave (after "poor" response to rape allegations)
Posted on 02/19/2004 6:04:47 AM PST by mhking
University of Colorado president Betsy Hoffman put football coach Gary Barnett on paid administrative leave Wednesday night, saying she was "utterly distressed" by a police report that describes Barnett as siding "100 percent" with a player accused of rape.
She also cited comments Barnett made about former CU place-kicker Katie Hnida, another of the five women who have now alleged sexual assault by CU football players or recruits.
"Our decision was based on coach Barnett's recent remarks about former student Katie Hnida's athletic abilities," Hoffman said. "His remarks about her were extremely inappropriate and insensitive. Rape is a horrific allegation, and it should be taken seriously."
On Tuesday, after Hnida went public with the allegation she was raped, Barnett called the former CU Buffalo a "terrible" kicker who "couldn't kick the ball through the uprights."
In a statement Wednesday night, Barnett said his remarks about Hnida had been misunderstood.
"I apologize for answering that question in a manner where I must have come across as insensitive," he said. "... I am very sensitive to Katie's allegations; I want to do whatever I can to help Katie."
He said that, as a "team player," he will abide by Hoffman's decision to suspend him from actively running the football program.
Barnett also said there were "some inaccuracies" in the 2001 police report. That Boulder Police Department report stemmed from allegations from another woman who says that a player raped her in September 2001 and that Barnett told her if she pursued criminal charges he would side with the player.
CU-Boulder chancellor Richard Byyny said that Barnett never notified senior CU officials about the September 2001 rape charge and that he should have.
"He was obliged to inform us when he became aware of it," Byyny said.
Regina Cowles, president of the National Organization for Women's Boulder chapter, said she thinks CU should have fired both Barnett and athletic director Dick Tharp on Wednesday.
"It's just outrageous because I just don't know what it's going to take to get CU, the administration's attention on this. They say the words that they're taking this seriously, and I believe that they want to, but I wonder if they know how to," she said.
She said Barnett's denials of wrongdoing are "really wearing thin."
In particular, Cowles denounced Barnett's comments about Hnida.
"His comments about Katie Hnida were malicious victim-bashing," she said. "And it is really revolting to me to hear him say that these comments were taken out of context when they have been played back on tape dozens of times."
In those comments, Barnett said: "It was obvious that Katie was not very good. She was awful. You know what guys do - they respect your ability. Katie was a girl, and not only was she a girl, she was terrible. There's no other way to say it. She couldn't kick the ball through the uprights."
Barnett will remain on paid leave until April 30, the date that an independent panel convened by the CU Board of Regents this week is expected to finish an inquiry into the football team's recruiting practices, Hoffman said.
Tharp said in a statement that he also was disturbed by Barnett's criticisms of Hnida.
It has not yet been determined how the football team will be run between now and April 30, he said.
"In the coming days, I will meet with ... Barnett and members of the coaching staff and the football team to jointly develop a plan for moving forward during this period," he said.
Hoffman said her announcement, which was made at 10 p.m. Wednesday, was not easy to make.
"We did not act in haste, we will not act in haste in the future, but we believe we've done the right thing," she said.
Gov. Bill Owens praised Hoffman for taking action.
"In view of the serious allegations concerning the CU football program, the action taken this evening by president Hoffman is both appropriate and necessary," he said.
The woman whose allegation became public Wednesday evening 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 blacked out 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.
Barnett's suspension comes exactly three weeks after depositions taken in the federal lawsuit of a woman suing the school were released.
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 women 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 CU athletic department officials like Barnett and Tharp have known that football recruits were being entertained in ways that could lead to sexual assault but failed to stop the practice.
Boulder County District Attorney Mary Keenan, a potential witness in the lawsuit, said in her deposition that she believed CU used sex and alcohol to recruit football players.
Throughout the lawsuit, Hoffman, Byyny, Tharp, Barnett and other CU officials have denied the charge that they have either endorsed or willfully ignored the alleged mistreatment of women in the football recruiting program.
On Tuesday, Barnett told reporters that he would not resign, because he had done nothing wrong.
After the coach was put on leave Wednesday, his players said they support Barnett, who came to CU with a reputation as a disciplinarian.
Quarterback Joel Klatt stood behind Barnett after seeing the news conference on television, saying he'd "never seen coach Barnett do anything unethical."
But Klatt was not prepared to criticize Hoffman.
"I'm not going to say he's been treated unfairly," he said. "There's been some hard things to overcome. But I think the main thing people need to realize is there are no facts right now. There is no evidence. Until those things come out, it's very hard to judge him as a person first and, second, as a coach."
Russell Sprague, father of Buffs receiver Dusty Sprague, said he and his family have found Barnett and his staff to have "the utmost integrity."
Asked of his reaction to Barnett's administrative leave, Sprague replied, "I'm just sad, and the reason I'm sad, I respect the young lady and I want things to be fully investigated, but I'm sad for him because I've seen a different side. We've seen a coach who, with my son anyway, has made him accountable and made him do the right things."
On campus, some students said they also were shocked by Barnett's alleged reaction in 2001.
"If he knew about it and didn't do anything, it's almost like he's supporting it," freshman Mindy Malone said.
But junior Joey Morris said that the new report confirmed some of the allegations that have already been lodged against the football team.
"It seemed they were doing nothing about it," he said.
CU Regent Gail Schwartz said she was "sickened" by Barnett's comments about Hnida on Tuesday.
"We need to move him from that environment so we can find out exactly what is going on," she said.
Schwartz said Hoffman and Byyny are right to trust the volunteer citizens' panel to investigate the football program and clear or indict Barnett by the April 30 deadline.
"We have competent people who have good advice and good help to make a reasonable assessment," she said.
CU Regent Jim Martin, who has been outspoken about the sexual assault allegations, said "swift action" was required even before an independent investigative commission appointed by the board of regents Monday could begin its work.
Tharp also should be held accountable for what Martin described as an increasingly questionable environment fostered in the football program, he said.
"It's not just Gary Barnett," Martin said. "The athletic director (Tharp) is really the CEO of the athletic department, so we need to be as equally critical of his participation or lack thereof and whether he's done his job. Gary Barnett is not the only wrongdoer in this. As far as management, you have to look up the chain."
Like Hoffman, Martin was troubled by the police report made public Wednesday.
"If it's true, that's obstruction of justice. That's as bad as the act itself, and it puts a whole different light on the credibility of Gary Barnett," he said.
Keenan said that Hoffman had made the right decision.
"I'm really sad that something couldn't be done earlier. I've tried to work with people over the years to address this issue," she said.
Keenan said she had told Hoffman about the September 2001 incident two weeks ago. Notes taken during that meeting by a university staffer indicate that Barnett also threatened the job of that alleged victim, an athletic department employee.
Umm, I understand that Barnett is a sleaze, etc., but what if the allegations were made up? Is it now "unconscionable" for a coach to stand by his players "100%" in the face of any rape accusation, even a flase one, simply because it is a serious subject? Once accused, the alleged perp and all his loved ones must immediately prostrate themselves?
All you need now is a hot, steaming cauldron, and ... you'll be the next Football coach at CU.
Couldn't happen. I pulled my head out of my @$$ years ago.
...and, have n all girls team; no more nasty smelling boys...
Two Division I-A universities did it in Hnida's case, ultimately giving ESPN the chance to highlight her "accomplishment" of kicking two extra points in a contest that was already decided. One does wonder why she was on CU's team if the coach had such a low opinion of her ability to begin with.
Barnett has proven himself to be a cluless ass who should be fired in short order.
That confuses me about the article. In it they claim that Barnett responded to her complaint by saying he would back his player 100% if she took it forward in the criminal process, etc.
Why would you bring a rape complaint to the attention of a football coach? Theres really not much he can do IMO. Its not his place to determine guilt or sentence someone for it. He can investigate in a cursory manner, I suppose. He could question the person(s) involved, assuming they want to cooperate, but they could just as easily tell him to pound sand and he has no legal authority to do anything meaningful about it.
He certainly has no authority to arrest or detain. I dont believe he can file criminal charges on behalf of a third party at least not in this case.
It seems to me youd go to the PD and fill out a report. Theyll handle it from there. The coach can support the player(s) or not, but hes not in a position to call any shots regarding a criminal investigation.
I have quite a few questions that are unanswered by this particular article.