Barnett called kicker 'terrible' after rape claim

Updated: February 19, 2004, 12:45 PM ET
Associated Press

DENVER -- The University of Colorado president chastised football coach Gary Barnett on Wednesday, saying his criticism of a former player who had just come forward to say she was raped was "unacceptable."

It is the first time President Elizabeth Hoffman has admonished Barnett since the football program was plunged into scandal three weeks ago amid allegations it uses sex and alcohol to entice recruits.

Hoffman said she has not asked Barnett to resign. But she told reporters she was "reserving judgment" on the coach's claim that he knew nothing about allegations of surrounding his program. She said she wanted to know whether there is a "breach of responsibility."

She said she needed to wait for an investigation by an independent panel appointed by the Board of Regents -- and there will probably be personnel changes if the report suggests impropriety.

"We need to know what did coach know (and) when," Hoffman said. "If the allegations are true, we'll probably have new personnel ... My job is at stake, as well."

Barnett did not return repeated telephone calls seeking comment.

Former kicker Katie Hnida, 22, said this week she was raped by a teammate in 2000 after her final season at Colorado. Hnida, one of the first women to ever play college football and now a student at the University of New Mexico, said she does not plan to file charges.

Hoffman said she was shocked by the allegation and urged Hnida to tell police so they can investigate. Barnett told reporters Tuesday that Hnida never told him about a sexual assault and he knew of no evidence to back up her claim.

He said the football program tried to make Hnida comfortable and had provided extra precautions when she told him about a stalker. But he also bluntly criticized Hnida's ability.

"It was obvious Katie was not very good. She was awful," he said. "Katie was not only a girl, she was terrible. OK? There's no other way to say it."

Hoffman said that statement was out of line.

"I have told him in no uncertain terms that that was an unacceptable remark," she said. "You have a rape allegation here. That's a very serious criminal allegation. It's simply inappropriate to essentially blame the victim, which is what he did."

Donna Lopiano, a former women's athletic director at the University of Texas and the chief executive of the Women's Sports Foundation, said she was shocked to see Barnett on television saying Hnida was a lousy kicker.

"This is truly not a woman's sports issues," she said. "This is an issue of violence against women. I don't know why it is a conversation about how good a kicker she is. This is obviously a program gone amok."

At the heart of the scandal are federal lawsuits filed by three women who say they were raped by football athletes at or after a December 2001 off-campus recruiting party. Boulder County prosecutor Mary Keenan decided against assault charges in the case, saying the heavy drinking involved would make it too difficult to prove in court.

But Keenan gave a deposition in one of the federal suits and said the athletics department offers sex and alcohol to recruits. Gov. Bill Owens demanded action and the regents formed an independent panel to investigate. It will begin its work in March.

Hoffman also said the university will hire a special official to oversee the athletics department report directly to her office.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

ALSO SEE