Tharp cites 'Appearance of Impropriety'

Updated: June 4, 2004, 9:16 AM ET
Associated Press

BOULDER, Colo. -- University of Colorado athletic director Dick Tharp is resigning as a director of the Liquor Mart store near campus.

But he is keeping his minority stake in the store, despite concerns from members of a panel that investigated the use of alcohol in football recruiting that the partial ownership suggested a conflict with his work on campus.

Tharp told CU-Boulder Chancellor Richard Byyny and CU President Betsy Hoffman in a May 3 memo that he would scale back his role with the store.

"I felt like it was just giving an appearance of impropriety, and it was probably better to avoid an appearance of impropriety," Tharp said Thursday.

Tharp said his continuing partial ownership of the store, like his other investments, is not relevant to his job.

CU's athletic department has come under scrutiny amid a football recruiting scandal centering on allegations of sexual misconduct and alcohol abuse, and an investigating commission probing the scandal questioned Tharp's role with the store.

The commission last month concluded that sex and alcohol were present at recruiting activities, but there was no evidence that CU officials knowingly sanctioned it.

At least nine women have reported being sexually assaulted by CU football players and recruits since 1997, and many of the alleged attacks involved alcohol.

After the investigating commission released its conclusions, Byyny and Hoffman said Tharp would keep his job but that he will lose some of his responsibilities as the university increases its oversight of athletics.

Tharp said Byyny and Hoffman never discussed his involvement in the store.

"Athletic director Tharp's involvement with that local business has been fully disclosed from the beginning," CU spokeswoman Pauline Hale said. "It was his personal decision to take the high road and announce his plan to resign from the board."

Tharp has said Liquor Mart has been a strong opponent of underage drinking. For instance, the store hired security guards to check the age of customers as they enter, Liquor Mart general manager and City Councilman Jack Stoakes said.

The Rev. Phillip Porter, who sat on the commission that investigated the athletic department, cheered Tharp's resignation from the retailer's board but said he would have liked Tharp to have made a clean break.

"Since we've seen what a devastating effect alcohol has on our youth, I think he would have done the better thing to make the big sacrifice," Bishop said.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press