Female place-kicker alleges harassment at University of Colorado

Updated: August 22, 2003, 8:08 PM ET

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- New Mexico place-kicker Katie Hnida alleges she was a target of sexual harassment in 1999 when she was on the football team at Colorado.

"I was treated much more like a piece of meat there," she said in a story in The Albuquerque Tribune on Friday. "Because I'm a pretty feminine gal, and they didn't respect that about me."

Hnida on Friday declined to speak with The Associated Press about her time at Colorado and the allegations she raised.

"I have nothing to say," Hnida said after a practice session.

Hnida told the newspaper she was "called names that are not repeatable" many times during the 1999 season -- her final one at Colorado.

Hnida, 22, a senior at New Mexico who dressed but never got into a game during two seasons as a walk-on at Colorado, said her experience at her new school has been enjoyable.

"I can be as feminine as I want, but that doesn't take away from me contributing on the field," she told the newspaper.

Hnida became the first woman to compete in a Division I-A football game when she attempted an extra point last Dec. 25 in the Lobos' 27-13 loss to UCLA in the Las Vegas Bowl. The kick was blocked.

Gary Barnett, who was in his first season as head coach at Colorado when Hnida was with the Buffaloes, said Thursday he was made aware of only one complaint.

Hnida or her father, Dave Hnida, "said she had been called an inappropriate name," Barnett said.

"I immediately went to the accused source of that and was very angry and very upset that he would do that sort of thing," Barnett said.

Barnett said he gave the player a tongue-lashing and told him he would be kicked off the team if he did it again. The player was not identified.

Hnida would not say how many times she complained to Barnett about mistreatment, but said: "That was certainly not the only incident he was aware of."

"If he was not aware of anything else, then it's hard to imagine he was blind and deaf," Hnida said. "I never got that impression, although he and I didn't have a very open, communicating relationship like (New Mexico coach Rocky Long) and I do."

Barnett said Hnida and "the media fiasco" that followed her during the season upset a number of Colorado players.

"I had to talk to players and tell them she was to be given a fair chance and fair opportunity," Barnett said.

"We took very good care of her, but Katie struggled with her own performance, where I don't think she ever earned the respect of her teammates. If that prompted certain treatment, I don't know," he said.

Hnida "wasn't a very good kicker" and "was a distraction to our team," Barnett said.

"So they looked at her as someone who was a novelty, a publicity act, a sideshow," Barnett told the Rocky Mountain News. "I never, ever wanted it to be like that."

Hnida said she was not universally accepted by her Colorado teammates, especially one reserve quarterback.

"We'd be kicking, and he'd launch (footballs) at my head," she said. "I'd have them whizzing by. To this day, if a football flies by my head, sometimes I just (flinch)."

Hnida did not try out for the Buffaloes in the fall of 2000 after Barnett said he told her she would have to beat out at least one of five kickers ahead of her.

Hnida said she didn't return for several reasons, including "an incident during that summer" she declined to detail.

Hnida took classes at Colorado in 2000-2001, then transferred to Santa Barbara (Calif.) City College for the 2001-2002 school year, but did not play football.

Hnida, of Littleton, Colo., joined the Lobos in 2002 as a walk-on.

"I love this program," she said of New Mexico. "I can't even tell you what a good time I've had here. I'm surrounded by a spectacular group of teammates, coaches, trainers, equipment, people."

Long said he has never heard of any problems regarding Hnida and her current teammates and she has never been a distraction.

He said Hnida might be sent into a game this season "if the right time appears," but said, "we're not going to manufacture anything."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index