School president talked with state officials

Updated: February 25, 2004, 4:16 AM ET
Associated Press

DENVER -- University of Colorado President Betsy Hoffman, who has been leading the school's response to allegations surrounding the football program, said Tuesday she has spoken to the governor and state attorney general.

Hoffman said it would be inappropriate for her to comment further. The talks raise the possibility of state involvement in allegations that have sparked embarrassing headlines about the school across the nation.

The school has been sued in federal court by three women who say they were raped by football players or recruits at or just after a 2001 off-campus party. Four other women, including former player Katie Hnida, also say they have been sexually assaulted by football athletes since 1997, though no charges have been filed.

Boulder District Attorney Mary Keenan said in a deposition last year she believed the football team uses women and alcohol to entice recruits, a claim denied by university officials.

After the deposition was made public, Gov. Bill Owens told university officials to take action or he would. The Board of Regents has appointed an independent panel to investigate, with a report due April 30.

If Owens decides to launch his own investigation, his options include appointing a special prosecutor, establishing another commission or working with the Legislature to take action that could include a panel with subpoena powers.

Owens spokesman Dan Hopkins said Tuesday that the governor has met numerous times with Hoffman and also has talked with Attorney General Ken Salazar. He would not say what was discussed.

Asked how another investigation would affect the independent panel's work, Hoffman said it would be inappropriate to comment since Owens and Salazar have not made a decision.

Meanwhile, about 100 people gathered at the University of Colorado at Denver's Auraria campus as speakers assailed football coach Gary Barnett and the CU administration for their handling of the rape scandal.

Students demanded that the CU administration issue a statement of "solidarity with women" and that all athletes and staff connected to the football program be required to have sensitivity training.

Glenn Morris, chair of the political science department at UCD, said an ongoing crisis in higher education funding and repeated rape allegations have created the worst environment on campus that he's ever seen in his 20 years there.

"The question is, what is to be done about this?" he asked. "Does the University of Colorado run a football program or does the football program run the University of Colorado?"

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press