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Report: CU leaders lacked oversight of recruits

Independent commission recommends sweeping reform

• DNA clears Univ. of Colorado football player
• No charges filed in U. of Colorado sex assault probe
Recommendations offered by the commission include:

• The integration of the athletic department into the university administration.

• The creation of an athletic governing board to advise the provost on athletics department operations and policy.

• The requirement that upper-level administrators to be notified of disciplinary actions against student athletes.

• The adoption of a "two strikes" rule that would require suspension for a second alcohol infraction by an underage student.

• Tightening the academic requirements for athletes.
Katie Hnida
Gary Barnett
University of Colorado

(CNN) -- An independent commission investigating football recruiting at the University of Colorado recommended sweeping reform of the program after finding evidence that sex, alcohol and drugs were used to entice high school players to the school.

The commission, appointed by the school's Board of Regents, said in a 37-page report released Tuesday that it found "no clear evidence" university officials were involved or sanctioned the practices.

But it questioned the fitness of the school's leaders and said they "must be held accountable for systemic failings that jeopardized students' safety and allowed for ongoing misconduct" in the recruiting program.

It also said the regents themselves must "examine what they have or have not done" to ensure the school adhered to recruiting principles the board endorsed in 1992.

Among the panel's recommendations was the elimination of the student-host program in which football players escorted potential students.

It also said official school visits should occur only after the football season has ended, and that visits be limited to 24 to 36 hours with an 11 p.m. curfew.

The commission urged the NCAA to adopt similar rules.

"The commission observes that the NCAA has adopted rules governing the number of logos a player can wear, yet fails to adopt rules governing more substantial and potentially life-threatening issues such as alcohol use, acquaintance rape and other inappropriate behavior," the commission's report said.

"Hosts felt that providing sex and alcohol was part of showing a recruit a good time, or felt no responsibility or obligation to keep recruits out of trouble or were untrained to do so," the report said.

It cited the practice by some hosts of entertaining the recruits by hiring strippers and providing the football recruits with alcohol, drugs and sex.

Through their attorneys, three prostitutes alleged that Nathan Maxcey, a football-recruiting assistant from June 2002 until July 2003, obtained escorts for recruits and players, the report said.

Maxcey has denied the charge, which the report said a special prosecutor would investigate.

The commission urged that President Elizabeth Hoffman decide whether Chancellor Richard Byyny, Athletic Director Richard Tharp and head football coach Gary Barnett "are capable of and committed to providing the leadership necessary" to change the status quo.

Byyny was blamed for failing to comply with directives to tighten supervision of recruits and exerting "little if any authority or oversight" over the athletic department.

Tharp was cited for espousing "a philosophy of 'plausible deniability' when faced with accusations of misconduct by student-athletes and employees" and for isolating himself from his staff.

The report noted that Barnett has been "widely praised for being a strong leader and a firm disciplinarian," but it said he failed to properly supervise recruits.

It added that Barnett "continues ... to resist some recruiting changes and demonstrates an unproductive defensive attitude."

The report then recommended that the regents decide whether Hoffman herself was able to "provide the leadership and vision needed to restore the university's integrity and reputation."

Hoffman "failed to exercise sufficient oversight until pressured by the governor and lawmakers," the report said.

Colorado, a member of the Big 12 Conference, has annual expenses of $19 million, $315,000 of which is spent on recruiting, the report said.

The football program has been rocked by six allegations of rape against CU football players since 2000 and by other claims that the football program used sex parties to lure recruits and that the athletic department might be linked to an escort service.

No charges have been filed in connection with any of the allegations, and a DNA test recently cleared one of the players of the charges.

The scandal gained momentum in February when Katie Hnida, a CU place-kicker in 1999, told Sports Illustrated that she was raped by a teammate and that she was verbally abused, harassed and molested by her fellow players. (Full story)

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