Athletic department official defends warnings

Updated: February 4, 2004, 2:55 AM ET
Associated Press

DENVER -- A University of Colorado athletics official defended the football program Tuesday, saying it makes a point of telling players they are not entitled to special privileges and that "no means no."

David Hansberg, director of football operations, compared the university's efforts to those involving cadets at the Air Force Academy, which is recovering from a scandal involving 142 reports of sexual assault in the past decade.

An investigation at the academy found that alcohol was involved in 40 percent of reported sexual assaults. Colorado law also says an inebriated person cannot give informed consent.

"Our handbook says never have sex if alcohol is involved," Hansberg said in a telephone interview from Boulder. "College football is about getting the best quality students, not just the best athletes."

The university was plunged into scandal last week when Boulder County District Attorney Mary Keenan said in newly disclosed court documents that Colorado relied on sex parties to entice top athletes.

The Board of Regents will meet Friday to discuss the scandal sparked by civil lawsuits in which three women say they were raped at or following a December 2001 football recruiting party. The suits suggest the university failed to act despite a similar incident in 1997.

In a deposition for one of the lawsuits, Keenan said recruits were led to believe they would have sex with women at the parties and that the university ignored her demands to crack down. Keenan, a former sex crimes investigator, did not return a call seeking comment Tuesday.

After the 2001 party, football recruiters began putting information on all prospective players in writing, Hansberg said. He said coaches previously had been content to simply talk with recruits, their parents and coaches -- but now everyone is warned they are expected to behave.

"We do not want loose cannons on campus," Hansberg said, adding that National Football League teams now have ex-Secret Service agents check out their recruits.

He said campus police come every year to speak with football players. Lt. Tim McGraw of the university police department said the talks cover everything from vandalism to sexual assault.

"We talk about domestic violence because Colorado laws are pretty strict," he said. "We talk about what consent is, including that the absence of no does not mean yes."

Heather Sturm, coordinator of the CU Rape and Gender Education Program, said simply teaching that no means no is not enough because the threat of violence can prevent a victim from saying anything.

"We go from the angle that people should wait for a yes or ask for a yes," she said.

Football coach Gary Barnett and university administrators have denied encouraging the use of sex and alcohol to land recruits. At least two university investigations are under way and Colorado President Elizabeth Hoffman this week said she was forming an independent panel to look into the allegations.

Gov. Bill Owens has told the university to clean up its act.

The effects of the scandal, however, may already be being seen:

Tavita Thompson, a 6-foot-6 lineman from Honolulu who had said he was leaning toward Colorado, has decided instead to sign with Oregon State. He told the Boulder Daily Camera he was concerned the scandal could result in changes in Colorado's coaching staff, though he also said relatives in Oregon and its Pacific 10 Conference membership were important factors. A message left at his home Tuesday was not returned.

Meanwhile, former Colorado quarterback James Colt Brennan, 20, was arrested Monday by university police on charges including unlawful sexual contact for allegedly entering a female student's dormitory room and exposing himself. Brennan was cut from the team last week after he was accused of sexual misconduct.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press