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Commission must respond by April 30

AURORA, Colo. -- The University of Colorado chose two former
lawmakers Friday to head a commission that will spend the next
three months investigating whether the school's football program
enticed recruits with alcohol-fueled sex parties that may have led
to rape.

Two university regents questioned the plan, suggesting the
commission won't be impartial and lacks leaders familiar with
sexual violence issues.

Speaking in front of a packed crowd at an emergency meeting of
the regents, university President Elizabeth Hoffman chose Democrat
Peggy Lamm and Republican Joyce Lawrence to co-chair the
commission.

The panel must report its findings by April 30 on whether "sex
and alcohol are used as recruiting tools" -- claims school and
athletics officials have insisted are untrue.

The nation's flagship university has been caught in a firestorm
since depositions surfaced last week about a December 2001
off-campus party in Boulder attended by football players and
recruits. Three women who say they were raped at or just after the
party sued the school, saying it fostered a hostile environment for
women in violation of federal gender equity laws.

Boulder District Attorney Mary Keenan declined to file rape
charges but said in a depositions leaked to reporters she believed
sex was used to lure recruits and that athletics officials had
ignored her demands to crack down.

The fallout has been dramatic: Gov. Bill Owens warned the
university to take action or he would step in, Regent Jim Martin
said he received a death threat from a CU booster and football
coach Gary Barnett said he lost two potential recruits.

"This has been a horrific week," Regent Pat Hayes said. "It's
like having a knife in your heart and every day someone's turning
it a little more."

The regents backed the commission plan on a 7-2 vote, with
Martin and Regent Cindy Carlisle dissenting.

"We have a black eye with the state of Colorado if not the
country," said Martin, who questioned whether the university could
thoroughly investigate itself.

"My goal has been to do exactly that," Hoffman replied. "My
goal is independence and impartiality throughout this process."

Carlisle, whose husband is an attorney representing one of the
women suing CU, said neither Lamm nor Lawrence has a legal
background or experience dealing with violence against women.

However, she said she would reserve judgment on whether the
public will be able to trust the panel's conclusions.

"Everything will ride on who the other appointments are," she
said after the meeting.

Nearly 3,000 pages of depositions have been released in the past
week. In one statement, a former CU athletics official suggested
Barnett wasn't interested in restricting recruits because it might
hurt CU's chance of staying competitive with teams like Oklahoma
and Nebraska.

Barnett, however, told the regents that during preseason camp,
for an hour every night, the team goes over a players' handbook
that outlines the exemplary behavior expected of them. He said his
staff checks the background of recruits intensively.

"We don't bring in loose cannons," he said. He said an athlete
who appears to be a potential problem while visiting campus will
not be offered a scholarship -- something that happened once this
year.

Many parents said they were angry about the allegations.

Patty Klopfenstein, among several players' parents who attended
the meeting at the university's Fitzsimons medical campus, told
regents the scandal has muddied the names of everyone on the team.
She said she does not believe coaches ever set up tawdry
entertainment for recruits.

"By all means, do your investigation," she told the regents.
"That may be the only thing that clears these men's names."

Bill Redmond, the father of a woman who says she was raped by a
University of Nebraska football player in the 1990s, also said he
didn't believe Barnett set up sex parties for recruits.

"The question is, was the athletic department aware and didn't
do anything?" he said.

Hoffman bristled at the suggestion, and Chancellor Richard Byyny
described at length how the university tightened policies regarding
sexual misconduct and alcohol abuse after both the 2001 party and a
similar 1997 party in which a high school student said she was
raped. No assault charges were filed in either case.

Byyny also said players are warned not to initiate sexual
contact with someone who is intoxicated, and are told the
university does not condone alcohol use. He said athletes now have
a curfew, and that player hosts are expected to behave during
recruits' visits.

"The overriding goal here for all of us is for the university
to do what it can to protect its students from sexual harassment,
sexual assault, alcohol abuse and other harm," Byyny said.