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Colorado coach may be reinstated

School's football program under scrutiny after rape allegations

Gary Barnett
Gary Barnett

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CNN's Josie Burke reports on embattled Colorado coach Gary Barnett and accusations of athlete misconduct.
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Former Colorado University football players voice their opinions on the sex scandal and give support to coach Gary Barnett.
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University of Colorado officials announce that football coach Gary Barnett has been placed on administrative leave.
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After being placed on leave, Barnett apologizes for comments regarding kicker Katie Hnida.
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Katie Hnida
Gary Barnett
University of Colorado

BOULDER, Colorado (CNN) -- University of Colorado football coach Gary Barnett will be allowed back on the field if rape allegations against players are not found to pervade the football program's culture, the school's president said Friday.

President Elizabeth Hoffman put Barnett on administrative leave Wednesday for disparaging comments he made about the only woman ever to play on the team, former placekicker Katie Hnida. Hnida has alleged a teammate raped her.

Six women have alleged they were sexually assaulted by football players during Barnett's tenure which began in 1999. A seventh rape allegation involved two recruits in 1997, but the two never enrolled at the university.

"We need to know whether there is a culture that promotes inappropriate relationships with women," Hoffman told CNN's "American Morning." "We need to know whether there's a culture that promotes excessive drinking.

"If we find out that it is not a pervasive culture in the football program and the athletic department and is perhaps isolated to a few individuals, then I believe [Barnett] will be exonerated, and he will be reinstated," she said.

Barnett told CNN's "Larry King Live" on Thursday night that he expected to be reinstated.

Brian Cabral, a 15-year assistant head coach, has been named as interim head coach and said he fully expects Barnett to be reinstated.

"I have no doubt when all is said and all is done, you'll find Coach Barnett to be a man of character."

Athletic director Richard Tharp said the allegations have "taken on a life of its own."

"I can tell you that I firmly believe and I am committed to the fact that this department and the people in this department did not encourage, condone or design behavior of that nature," Tharp said.

He also said it is time to let the university press on with its investigation.

"It is not a time for continued allegations, continued denials," Tharp said. "We need resolution."

Barnett was suspended after he made disparaging comments about a female placekicker who said she was raped while on the team.

Barnett called her an "awful" player who "couldn't kick the ball through the uprights."

"I think I said the wrong thing, the wrong way and at the wrong time," Barnett said Thursday.

Hoffman said it was inappropriate for the coach to make such a statement about a player's abilities "in the context of a rape allegation." (Full story)

Several of Barnett's former players have spoken in support of their coach.

"We have to keep in mind that of all that we've heard in the media, not a single charge has been filed against a single football player," said former quarterback Charles Johnson.

"I don't understand why these players aren't worthy of the presumption of innocence, particularly given that not one charge has been filed against them."

Former fullback Scott Nemeth said, "Gary Barnett is an upright, honest and moral man, and I stand by him as my coach, as my leader and as my mentor."

More accusations surface

Now at the University of New Mexico, Hnida told Sports Illustrated magazine she was raped by a teammate and verbally abused, harassed and molested by her fellow players when she was at the University of Colorado.

Since she came forward, police have said they are investigating two more alleged rapes. In the most recent case, a woman said she met two University of Colorado football players at a bar in August 2002 and was sodomized later that night, police said. She said she may have been drugged, the police said

DNA tests ruled out one of the men, according to police.

In another case, a woman in the athletic department accused a player of raping her, and she quoted Barnett as saying he "would back his player 100 percent if she took this forward in the criminal process," according to police records released Wednesday.

Last month, the University of Colorado program came under increased scrutiny after depositions surfaced that three women claimed they were raped in connection with a December 2001 party in Boulder.

Additionally, the Broomfield County Sheriff's Department said two weeks ago it was investigating whether the university's athletic department hired an escort service for sex parties at a hotel.

Report expected by end of April

Johnson said he'd never been host to such a party, calling the "suggestion that football players, sex parties, as some have coined them, I think is largely inaccurate."

All of those allegations cover incidents during Barnett's tenure, which began in 1999. Additionally, before Barnett took over the team, a high school student alleged she was raped in 1997 by two University of Colorado recruits at a party. The recruits never enrolled at the university.

Although prosecutors didn't file charges, they told the athletic department to get parties under control, police said.

Barnett told "Larry King Live" that he made "a decision to change the culture there, around academics and around recruiting," when he arrived at the school.

"I introduced a 124-page manual that talked about behavioral and character expectations, including but not totally -- or not completely -- sexual harassment, alcohol abuse and specifically date rape," he said.

Hoffman said an independent panel is due to report on the allegations by April 30, but she said it may ask for an extension.

"I will ask for some kind of report by April 30," she said, "so that I can make a decision in time for the coach to either resume his activities and prepare the team for next fall, or so that we can look for another coach."

The president said she believes the problem is not endemic of her university.

"I think all across this country young people at colleges and universities emphasize the excessive use of alcohol to a far greater extent than is appropriate in preparing themselves for life," Hoffman said.

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