Players assure coach they were not involved

Updated: February 12, 2004, 12:46 PM ET
Associated Press

HOUSTON -- Every Rice football player has denied knowledge of a stripper agency owner's contention that his entertainers were hired by students to dance at parties, possibly for recruits.

Rice coach Ken Hatfield, who gathered the players after word spread that a Denver-based businessman claimed students from Rice and Houston threw such parties, said his players promised him they had no involvement in any such parties.

"There's no proof to show there were any football players involved in any of these allegations," Hatfield said Wednesday. He said members of all Rice athletic teams denied the statements by Steve Lower, president and chief executive of Hardbodies Entertainment Inc.

Lower told reporters earlier this week that Rice and Houston were among several schools where topless dancers were hired to work at football recruiting parties.

He softened his statement Wednesday in interviews with The Associated Press. He first characterized his clients as "players," then later only referred to them as "students."

Rice and Houston have denied knowledge of such parties, and Lower now says his company never has done business with either school or its representatives.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press