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Scandal deepens with company's confirmation

2/10/2004 - Colorado Buffaloes

DENVER -- Already mired in a scandal that includes
allegations of rape, the University of Colorado suffered another
blow Tuesday when an adult entertainment company confirmed football
players hired strippers for recruiting parties as recently as two
weeks ago.

Steve Lower, president of Hardbodies Entertainment Inc. in
Denver, said athletes at Colorado and universities around the
country have been paying strippers to entertain recruits for years.

"It's a tradition, like throwing a bachelor party," he said.
"It's a tradition handed down from player to player to player."

Hardbodies also has offices in Houston and Las Vegas. Lower said
students or athletes at the University of Houston, Rice University,
University of Northern Colorado, Colorado State University hired
his dancers without the knowledge of university officials or
coaches.

"Yes, these have been our girls doing it and no, the college
has absolutely not paid for it, condoned it or been aware of it,"
he said.

Officials at most of the schools did not return calls seeking
comment.

"If this is true, it is a violation of what we teach them and
tell them," Colorado football coach Gary Barnett said. Houston
athletic director Dave Maggard said he and football coach Art
Briles were not aware of any strip parties.

Earlier this month, St. John's University suspended five
basketball players for breaking curfew to go to a strip club.
University of Minnesota officials are also investigating whether
high school football recruits visited bars and a strip club during
a visit in December.

According to National Collegiate Athletic Association rules, a
school "may not arrange or permit excessive entertainment,"
though it is unclear what constitutes excessive. The NCAA has said
it is convening a panel this spring to discuss recruiting problems.

The news couldn't have come at a worse time for Colorado, which
was plunged into scandal last week with the disclosure of
allegations that it uses sex and women to entice recruits.

The claim was made by Boulder County District Attorney Mary
Keenan in one of three federal lawsuits filed by women who say they
were raped at an off-campus party in December 2001 attended by
players and recruits.

University officials have denied the school uses sex parties as
a recruiting tool. Last week, Barnett suspended four players,
including one for taking a recruit to a strip club.

The Board of Regents has ordered a special commission to
investigate and prepare a report by April 30.

News of the strip parties stunned Regents President Peter
Steinhauer.

"I don't think this should be part of the recruiting
atmosphere," he said. "Something pops up every day."

Last week, police said they were also investigating whether
Colorado football players hired prostitutes from an escort service.

Regent Jim Martin, who has been critical of how university
administrators have handled the scandal, said investigators should
find out where the money to pay for the strippers came from.

"We are talking about taxpayer money," he said. "We are not
talking about a professional team that can spend money the way its
stockholders want to try to competitive."

Colorado players testified in the depositions that they get $30
from athletic department officials to host recruits. Lower said it
costs $250 for two strippers to dance for an hour.

"It is usually paid for by friends of the players," said
Lower, who spoke first with the Rocky Mountain News.

Hardbodies dancer Jennifer Nass, 23, said she has stripped at
about half a dozen Colorado recruiting parties.

"We just basically go and do a lap dance; the same thing you
get at a strip club," she said in a telephone interview. "There
is no touching, we don't like explicit language and we would leave
if either occurred. No one who is a parental figure or coach has
ever attended. And none of the athletes ever broke the rules."

Steinhauer said the regents were putting together a list of 100
people who could serve on the Colorado investigative commission. He
said the board will meet Monday to pick the remaining members, who
will probably include a victims' advocate.

The panel is being co-chaired by former lawmakers Joyce Lawrence
and Peggy Lamm. Lawrence drew criticism last week when she
suggested the alleged victims should be asked why they went to the
party.

Steinhauer said he still backs Lawrence's role on the panel.

"I think she probably wishes she could take her comments
back," he said. "But we want people who ask tough questions. And
that is a question we should ask."