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School faces new sex assault allegation

DENVER -- A female kicker's claim that she was raped by a
University of Colorado football teammate four years ago has sent
shockwaves through a program already rocked by sexual assault
accusations.

Katie Hnida makes the allegation in the upcoming issue of Sports
Illustrated, saying she wanted to come forward now because of the
school's other problems. She said she didn't tell police when it
happened in the summer of 2000 because she was too frightened.

The university said it planned to hire a special administrator
to oversee its athletic department and football program.

Hnida issued a statement Tuesday through the University of New
Mexico, where she is a student, to say she was "healing" from
"horrors endured" while on the Colorado football team. The
statement doesn't mention rape, and she said she doesn't plan to
press charges.

But Hnida's statement was intended to confirm the Sports
Illustrated report, New Mexico athletics spokesman Greg Remington
said. Attempts to reach Hnida were not immediately successful;
there is no telephone listing for her in Albuquerque.

Three other women have sued the University of Colorado in
federal court, saying they were raped by players or recruits at or
after an off-campus party in December 2001.

No assault charges have been filed in those cases, but Boulder
County prosecutor Mary Keenan said in a deposition for one lawsuit
that she believes the football program uses alcohol and sex to
entice recruits. Keenan did not return a call seeking comment
Tuesday.

The Denver Post reported Wednesday that a fifth woman told
police more than a year ago she was raped by a football player.
That woman did not want to press charges.

"If and when she decides to come forward, I will support her in
doing so, but I respect people's privacy," Keenan told the
newspaper.

University president Betsy Hoffman said she and chancellor
Richard Byyny trust athletic director Dick Tharp and football coach
Gary Barnett. Barnett said he was surprised by Hnida's allegation
and issued a public plea for her to provide him names, so he could
investigate.

Barnett, who last fall called Hnida "a distraction to our
team," said he was told of the alleged assault for the first time
this week by a Sports Illustrated writer.

"It would help to know names, situations," Barnett said.

Barnett also took the time to critique Hnida's play. Wednesday's Denver Post reports that Barnett, when asked Tuesday about Hnida's situation, said that "It was obvious Katie was not very good. She was awful. You know what guys do? They respect your ability. You can be 90 years old, but if you can go out and play, they'll respect you. Katie was not only a girl, she was terrible. OK? There's no other way to say it."

This tack drew harsh criticism from Hoffman.

"Whatever he might have thought of her as a player, I think the
real issue right now is the shocking allegations that came out in
the Sports Illustrated article yesterday," Hoffman told KUSA-TV in
Denver on Wednesday.

Last August, Hnida, 22, said she was a target of sexual
harassment when she was at Colorado but did not mention rape. She
told Sports Illustrated, however, she was assaulted in 2000 at a
teammate's home.

"He starts to kiss me," she said. "I told him, 'That's not
OK.' Next thing I know he's on top of me. I told him, 'No!' ... I
tried to push him off me, but he outweighed me by 100 pounds."

She said she was able to escape after the telephone rang. Asked
why she didn't tell police, she said she was afraid of the player
and didn't want a "media mess."

Hnida did not try out for the Buffaloes in 2000 after Barnett
said he told her she would have to beat out other kickers for the
job. Last fall, Hnida said she didn't return for several reasons,
including "an incident during that summer."

Hnida later became the first woman to compete in a Division I-A
football game when she attempted an extra point for New Mexico in
the 2002 Las Vegas Bowl. That kick was blocked. Last August, she
became the first woman to score in a Division I-A game when she
kicked two extra points for New Mexico in a win over Texas
State-San Marcos.

Hnida's claims were the newest addition to a growing list of
allegations against a program that CU officials have vehemently
defended.

The school then selected an outside panel to handle a
comprehensive investigation when Gov. Bill Owens threatened to do
that himself.

Hoffman said she and Byyny cannot be in the athletic department
daily while trying to "perhaps save the university from imminent
financial ruin" due to budget cuts, and need help from an
administrator with experience at a major university and with
Division I-A athletics.

"We need someone with no stake in the outcome," she said.

The outside panel picked by CU regents is to report by April 30.

The panel has run into its own trouble because of potential
conflicts of interest. Kenneth Vardell, a retired FBI agent,
resigned after regents realized he had administered a lie-detector
test to a player after the 2001 party. Officials said he wouldn't
be replaced and the remaining seven members could do the work.

Another member, Pentecostal bishop Phillip Porter, helped lead
the Promise Keepers religious movement launched by former Colorado
football coach Bill McCartney in the 1990s. Poter said board
chairman Peter Steinhauer told him he wants Porter to remain on the
commission.