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University asks police to look into alleged rape

Kicker Katie Hnida played for Colorado until the end of her sophomore year.
Kicker Katie Hnida played for Colorado until the end of her sophomore year.

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KCNC investigative reporter Rick Sallinger gives some insight into Katie Hnida's personality and Colorado head coach Gary Barnett's demeanor.
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A woman who played football for University of Colorado says she was raped and harassed while on the team. CNN's Soledad O'Brien interviews the college president.
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University of Colorado
Katie Hnida

BOULDER, Colorado (CNN) -- The president of the University of Colorado said Wednesday that she has requested Boulder police to investigate a rape allegation by a former female football player.

Katie Hnida, a 1999 placekicker for the team and the only woman ever to play football for the school, told the magazine Sports Illustrated she was verbally abused, harassed and molested by other players and -- on one occasion -- raped by a teammate. She said she never reported the rape to police.

University President Elizabeth Hoffman said the school has created a liaison position within the athletic department to be the "eyes and ears" of the college's administration.

The liaison's job will be to determine whether Hnida's allegations -- if true -- were an isolated incident or "a pervasive culture in the athletic department," Hoffman said.

Hoffman said the university was "shocked and deeply disturbed" by Hnida's allegations and vowed to get to the truth of the matter.

"There have been continuing, almost daily, allegations leveled against the university with regard to our football program," Hoffman said. "These give us very grave concerns."

"We strongly encourage Katie to contact police officials to investigate what is a serious criminal charge," she said.

Coach: Hnida was a 'distraction'

Football coach Gary Barnett said Hnida had never told him about any sort of sexual harassment or sexual assault from teammates.

Barnett also described Hnida as a "distraction" who was not fit to play Division I football.

"I think she was a distraction, because at the end of practice we would have 20 media members there to talk to a walk-on kicker who couldn't kick it through the uprights," Barnett said. "That was an issue."

"It's a guy's sport, and [the men players] felt like Katie was forced on them," Barnett said. "It was obvious Katie was not very good. She was awful."

Later, playing for University of New Mexico in August of 2003, Hnida kicked two extra points, becoming the first woman in history to score in a Division I college football game.

Hoffman expressed disappointment with Barnett's statement saying, "I wish he hadn't made a comment like that ... very clearly, at a time like this, we need to take the high road." Hoffman said she planned to speak with Barnett about it.

Asked about Barnett's coaching status, Hoffman would only say, "Everyone's job is at risk at any point in time."

Coach: 'We have not done anything wrong'

University of Colorado President Elizabeth Hoffman has appointed a special liaison to look for problems in the school's athletics programs.
University of Colorado President Elizabeth Hoffman has appointed a special liaison to look for problems in the school's athletics programs.

Barnett said he has no plans to resign.

"We have not done anything wrong," Barnett said. "There isn't a shred of evidence to back up any allegation that's been made, and there won't be."

Barnett said that at one point while Hnida attended the University of Colorado she was having a problem with a stalker. For safety reasons, teammates escorted her to and from a special locker room built especially for Hnida. There was a period of time, Barnett said, when a police officer attended practice for extra protection.

"I wanted it to work," he said. "I really did want it to work."

Hnida, an award-winning kicker in high school, was brought to the Colorado campus as a walk-on by then-coach Rick Neuheisel.

Hnida told Sports Illustrated's Rick Reilly that, on her first day of practice, five teammates surrounded her and verbally abused her. Team members exposed themselves to Hnida "at least five times" during that season, she said.

Hnida was a walk-on kicker for the University of New Mexico in 2002.
Hnida was a walk-on kicker for the University of New Mexico in 2002.

Hnida said she was raped by a teammate at his home, according to Reilly. She told Reilly that the teammate began kissing her despite her objections. "I tried to push him off me, but he outweighed me by 100 pounds," Hnida was quoted as saying.

She said she was scared to go to the police fearing "what he might do to me." Hnida did not identify the name of her alleged attacker in the Sports Illustrated article.

In a written statement Tuesday, Hnida -- who dropped out of the University of Colorado after her sophomore year and eventually walked on at the University of New Mexico in 2002 -- said she decided to go public now because of the controversy surrounding Boulder's program.

"The recent allegations into the football program at the University of Colorado have caused me to come forward with details of my own experience at C.U.," Hnida said.

"To this day, I am dealing with the repercussions suffered from my short time at C.U.," she said. "I will have to deal with it for the rest of my life."

Hnida also said she has been in contact with Boulder County law enforcement.

Hnida's accusation is the fourth rape allegation relating to the school's football program. Hoffman said the university is aware of a possible fifth woman, but she refused to elaborate.

The football program has been under scrutiny for weeks after depositions surfaced that three women claim they were raped during -- or immediately following -- a sex party in Boulder in December 2001.

Since then, the program has been under fire for allegedly using sex parties to recruit athletes. The program is also under investigation for possibly setting up an escort service for its athletes. (Full story)

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