Barnett supporters signing Internet petition

Updated: February 27, 2004, 3:04 AM ET
Associated Press

BOULDER, Colo. -- Supporters of suspended University of Colorado football coach Gary Barnett are signing an Internet petition, wearing "Free Barnett" T-shirts and threatening to withhold donations if he is fired without sufficient reason.

"It seems like the tide is turning a little bit," said Boulder resident Kim Moss, a CU graduate trying to rally support for the beleaguered coach and program.

Barnett was suspended on Feb. 18 for remarks he made about former CU player Katie Hnida after she said she was raped by a teammate. She is one of six women who have said they were raped by CU players or recruits since 2001.

The university established a commission to investigate charges that the football program used sex and alcohol to recruit high school athletes, and revelations that players hired strippers to entertain recruits and that a former CU employee had used a university cell phone to call an escort service.

A pro-Barnett Web site, sprang up on Sunday, and more than 800 people had signed a petition there by early Thursday condemning a "rush to judgment,'' said Eric Gleason, a CU graduate and creator of the site.

"All of this just got me really angry, and this was something I could do about it," Gleason said from London, where he is an investment banker.

James Legg, a donor from Houston, has written to university administrators saying he would withhold future donations if they fire Barnett without more reason than has surfaced so far.

Legg said he donated more than $10,000 to the Golden Buffalo Scholarship Fund last year and has committed another $10,000 toward weight room improvements this year.

"So far this has turned out to be a big witch hunt," Legg said.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press