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DiBiaggio will report to top school officials

2/27/2004 - Colorado Buffaloes

DENVER -- University of Colorado officials appointed a
former college president Wednesday to help the school determine
whether its embattled athletics department mistreats women.

The athletics program is at the center of a scandal that
includes allegations of rape and accusations that recruits were
lured to the Boulder school with sex and alcohol.

John DiBiaggio is expected to begin work next week and report
directly to university President Betsy Hoffman and Chancellor
Richard Byyny. They said he will have access to virtually
everything and everyone on campus, including suspended football
coach Gary Barnett.

DiBiaggio, whose appointment is expected to be formally approved
next week, will work with officials and staff across campus to
advise officials in making changes, Byyny said. He also will help
provide information to an independent investigative panel set up by
the Board of Regents to investigate the scandal.

Reached at his home in Snowmass Village, DiBiaggio said he did
not have any specific goals or opinions heading into his new job.

"They (Hoffman and Byyny) are interested in assuring that they
develop a program in athletics that they can be proud of at the
university, a model program," DiBiaggio said. "What they really
wish for me to do is serve as an observer and make recommendations
to them as to changes that might be considered."

He said he will try to gain an understanding of the culture of
the athletics department rather than look deeply into specific
issues.

"Often the kinds of things that occur within (any university's
athletics department) broad-brush the institution, so it's
important for it to reflect what the institution is all about," he
said.

Hoffman said DiBiaggio was the first choice among several
candidates because he is a nationally recognized expert on
collegiate athletic reform and an experienced administrator.

DiBiaggio, a dentist and father of three, is a former president
of Tufts, Michigan State and Connecticut universities. He has
served as a member of the board of the NCAA Foundation and the
Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, which was founded
in 1989 to study problems and recommend improvements in college
sports.

"We have to do this at this moment in time," Hoffman said.
"This university has to emerge from this stronger, emerge with all
the questions answered. We absolutely have to do this."

She said DiBiaggio will help the university figure out whether
the athletic department has a culture that is supportive of women
or one that somehow encourages sexual assault.

The appointment is also crucial to answering questions raised by
three women who have sued the school in federal court, Hoffman
said. The women say the university fostered an environment that led
to their rape by football athletes at or after a 2001 off-campus
party.

In a Sept. 11, 2000, column, DiBiaggio wrote that intercollegiate
athletics "continues to be plagued by abuses,'' and said real
change can happen only at each institution and only if college and
university presidents have the courage to stand up to pressures
against it.

Hoffman said that sort of attitude was "exactly what we were
looking for."

"We intend to do whatever has to be done to move us forward,"
she said.

Colorado athletics director Richard Tharp said he was
"delighted" by DiBiaggio's selection.

"We look forward to benefiting from Dr. DiBiaggio's wisdom and
experience, particularly in our ongoing efforts to define the
proper role of athletics as a program of the university," Tharp
said in a statement. "We also look forward to his advice and
counsel on the most effective ways of meeting our educational
mission."

DiBiaggio's salary will be funded by the athletic department. He will be paid $21,000 a month plus a $1,000 monthly housing
allowance through June 30.