Panel approves budget, gets to work

Updated: March 2, 2004, 8:51 PM ET
Associated Press

AURORA, Colo. -- The independent commission investigating the University of Colorado recruiting scandal convened for the first time Tuesday and declared its top priority is getting to the bottom of allegations that recruits are offered sex and alcohol.

The seven-member panel, appointed by the Board of Regents last week, immediately approved a draft budget of $246,500, including an estimated $90,000 to hire independent investigators.

Commissioner Luis Rovira said he wants to examine the financial details of the football program, including how much comes from boosters and how much it costs to host recruits.

"It may have some beneficial effect in evaluating the various activities alleged to be part of the program," he said.

The panel, which does not have subpoena power, is supposed to examine the culture of the university's embattled athletics department. The state attorney general is heading a separate investigation that could lead to criminal charges.

Seven women have accused football players or recruits of rape since 1997, though no charges have been filed. Football coach Gary Barnett was suspended for remarks he made in two of the cases, including disparaging the athletic ability of a former player who said she was raped by a teammate in 2000.

Football players also have been accused of hiring strippers and attending boozed-up parties. Boulder County prosecutor Mary Keenan has said the program offers sex and alcohol to lure recruits to Boulder, a claim university officials have denied.

The commission tentatively earmarked $10,000 to set up a telephone tip line for people with information about the athletics program. Some commissioners said they were concerned about whether the details will be kept confidential.

It is unlikely that lawmakers will give the panel subpoena power, despite the wishes of Gov. Bill Owens. Senate President John Andrews, R-Centennial, and House Speaker Lola Spradley, R-Beulah, both say they oppose the idea.

Deputy Attorney General Don Quick told lawmakers Tuesday that Attorney General Ken Salazar could instead use a statewide grand jury if he finds evidence of a crime.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press