By Jason Whitlock
Special to Page 2

The solution to the sexual-assault-allegations crisis that engulfed Gary Barnett and the University of Colorado football program is mind-bogglingly simple.

It's so simple that even grandstanding Colorado president Betsy Hoffman should be able to figure it out, and so should all the grandstanding feminists, academicians and hypocritical, Katie Hnida-supporting sports pontificators who are upset that Hoffman isn't firing Barnett and athletic director Dick Tharp.

Katie Hnida
Katie Hnida -- the former Colorado placekicker at the center of the scandal.

By taking this one simple act, Hoffman would virtually assure that the number of sexual-assault accusations against Colorado's athlete-students would decline by more than 50 percent, if not go away almost completely. And isn't that the goal? Avoid embarrassment? Create a safer climate in which CU co-eds can interact with athlete-students? Reduce the number of sexual assaults and claims of sexual assault on campus?

Hoffman only needs one reform, and the problem disappears. Instead, we are treated to a laundry list of meaningless ideas and conditions and reforms that only place Colorado's athletic department at further odds with its academic faculty. Barnett, the football program and the university will all soon suffer even more embarrassment.

The simple-minded, agenda-riddled groups seeking the scalps of Barnett and Tharp won't be satisfied by Thursday's announcements. Those groups now will dig in deeper and launch another witch hunt. They want a trophy. They need their huffing and puffing to cost someone his employment, or else their grandstanding will have meant nothing.

It doesn't matter that Barnett and Tharp have almost nothing to do with the drunken, sexual-abuse climate that permeates CU's campus. And it doesn't matter that the clean-up of that climate would in no way be helped if Barnett and Tharp were to lose their jobs. That isn't the point. This is: A posse was rounded up, and everybody's in the mood for a hanging.

Unfortunately, the real criminal in this whole affair is still lurking around the CU campus and just about every other campus in America. We all know him. Most of us have loved him at one time in our lives. He's so powerful and seductive that we rarely speak against him ... even after he's whipped us to our knees, made our heads spin and throb in pain, and forced us to do unimaginable things we'd never tell our children.

Alcohol.

CU's problems would be solved simply by outlawing the use of alcohol by its athlete-students. Any scholarship athlete caught consuming alcohol and/or failing a randomly-administered breathalyzer test would lose his or her scholarship, permanently. Zero tolerance.

Would the athletes try to sneak and cheat? Absolutely. I'd make them blow into a breathalyzer every morning before class. End of cheating. End of problem.

I would then devise a points system that penalizes athlete-students for being involved in mishaps that involve drinking -- by any of the parties involved. Let's say a perfectly sober linebacker gets in a fight at a bar with a drinking patron. Even if he is exonerated eventually, the linebacker would be charged five points. If his point total ever reaches 10, the linebacker would lose his scholarship and be removed from the team.

If Hoffman wants to protect the integrity of her athletic department, protect her athlete-students and be a real leader in reforming college athletics, she'll send a strong message to CU athletes to stay away from alcohol and from people consuming alcohol in excess. Period.

Curfews and governing bodies and rules and regulations will create paperwork and headaches for everyone involved, and won't get at the heart of what's causing most of the problems.

Gary Barnett
Firing Gary Barnett wouldn't have solved Colorado's problems.

Alcohol is the problem, and everybody knows it.

Barnett and Tharp are not the common denominators in the sexual-assault allegations against Colorado football players. Alcohol is the common denominator. Alcohol is the common denominator in most date-rape or acquaintance-rape allegations. This is no secret.

Just like it's no secret that the entire CU campus has a binge-drinking problem. Colorado has been labeled America's No. 1 party school for decades. The district attorney couldn't bring criminal charges in most of the alleged rape cases because the witnesses were drunk. They didn't remember what happened. The women were drunk. The men were drunk.

Getting drunk is the No. 1 sport in college; it's bigger than football and the NCAA Tournament combined. I did it. I could binge-drink with the best of them when I was a college football player at Ball State. Every stupid thing I ever did in college happened as a result of binge-drinking. Luckily, I survived.

I didn't get pinched for beating up a kid at Papa Lou's Chug because he had the audacity to dance with a girl with whom I had flirted in one of my journalism classes. (She got ticked at me and went home with our three-time MAC defensive player of the year.) I never got pinched for drinking and driving, or for walking into Village Pantry with no money and leaving with a sandwich and a drink.

I was a drunken fool, and so were many of my teammates (and classmates). It was stupid and dangerous.

Athlete-students should be held to a different standard. They represent the university. Most of them are in school on a scholarship; and, in many cases, their high school academic records have been overlooked to get them there. A scholarship, although earned through hard work, is still a privilege. It's okay to put stiff conditions on a privilege.

You'd be surprised how many misunderstandings and allegations you can avoid when you're sober.

Jason Whitlock is a columnist for the Kansas City Star and a regular contributor on ESPN The Magazine's Sunday morning edition of "The Sports Reporters." He also hosts an afternoon radio show, "The Doghouse," on Kansas City's 61 Sports KCSP. He can be reached at ballstate68@aol.com.




Jason_Whitlock
Jason
Whitlock
Sober up