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School responds to latest rape allegation

2/18/2004 - Colorado Buffaloes

DENVER -- The University of Colorado said it planned to hire
a special administrator to oversee its athletic department and
scandal-plagued football program after a female placekicker said
she was raped by a teammate four years ago.

Katie Hnida said in the upcoming edition of Sports Illustrated
that she was assaulted in the summer of 2000. Now at the University
of New Mexico, she last year became the first woman ever to score
points in a Division I-A college football game.

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 of the
lawsuits that she believes the football program uses alcohol and
sex to entice recruits. Keenan did not return a call seeking
comment Tuesday.

Meanwhile, The Denver Post reported Wednesday that a fifth woman
told police more than a year ago that 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.

Hnida, 22, issued a statement Tuesday through the University of
New Mexico, saying she was "healing" from "horrors endured" at
Colorado. The statement does not mention rape, and she says she
does not plan to press charges.

Hnida's statement, however, was intended to confirm the account
in Sports Illustrated, New Mexico athletics spokesman Greg
Remington said. Attempts to locate Hnida were not immediately
successful; there was no telephone listing under her name in
Albuquerque.

University of Colorado President Elizabeth Hoffman and
Chancellor Richard Byyny said the special administrator will work
within the athletics department and report directly to them. They
said they're seeking someone who is familiar with athletics
programs at a major university.

"I think if this person is in the department every day, if such
conduct exists this person would see it," Hoffman said.

Hoffman said she and Byyny trust athletic director Dick Tharp
and football coach Gary Barnett but still need someone's help to
monitor the situation. She added that she was busy dealing with the
possibility of state budget cuts that threaten "imminent financial
ruin."

Barnett said he was surprised by Hnida's allegation. Asked
whether he intended to step down as Colorado's coach, Barnett said
no. He also called Hnida's play "terrible." That drew criticism
from Hoffman.

"I'm very sorry that he made those comments and I'm certainly
going to have a conversation with him today," Hoffman told KUSA-TV
in Denver on Wednesday.

"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."

The governor has urged the university to take action and an
independent panel has been chosen to put together a report by April
30 on recruiting practices. University officials have denied
Keenan's allegations.

Hnida was on Colorado's roster in 1999 as a walk-on, but never
got into a game. Last August, she said she was a target of sexual
harassment when she was at Colorado but did not mention rape. She
told Sports Illustrated, however, that 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 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 72-8 win over Texas
State-San Marcos.