DENVER -- Suspended Colorado coach Gary Barnett says he is
sure he and his embattled football program will be exonerated and
that it has given him perhaps his greatest challenge.
"It's become, in some ways, also my greatest opportunity to
demonstrate leadership -- to pull our team and our school and our
athletic department through this adversity that we're facing,"
Barnett said in an interview Wednesday with KMGH-TV of Denver.
The university has been rocked by allegations that
football recruits were offered sex and alcohol. Seven women have
accused football athletes of rape since 1997. No charges have been
filed, but three of the women have filed federal lawsuits that say
the school's failure to control its athletes contributed to their
assaults surrounding a 2001 off-campus party.
The Board of Regents and the state attorney general are
investigating. Congress will also hold a hearing on recruiting next
Barnett said the ordeal has been difficult for his family and
acknowledged that his reputation has been damaged.
"There's yet to be one single piece of evidence to back up any
of those allegations," Barnett said. He denied the school has ever
used sex and alcohol to land recruits.
"It's urban legend," he said. "What I think's happening is
that all the stories that have come out through the years, and I
think that probably some actions of coaches around the country last
year really put coaches in a tough light."
He added: "Why would we want to use those things to recruit?
Why do you want players or people who would come to your university
because of those reasons? And, again, I say that realizing that
already half the population out there doesn't believe what I'm
saying. But it is the truth."
Barnett was suspended last month by university President Betsy
Hoffman, who said she was concerned about comments he made
involving two of the alleged rape cases. In one case, he criticized
the athletic ability of former kicker Katie Hnida after she accused
a teammate of rape.
"I wish that I hadn't answered that question and hadn't
answered it the way that I did," he said. "I also wish that
everybody would hear the other 16 minutes of that tape because in
the first 16 minutes, I continually talk about our concern for
Katie and continuously talk about our concern that someone or
anyone who might have done this needs to be brought to justice and
that we need to do everything we can to do that."
Barnett said the various investigations "really is our chance
to get all these allegations cleared up." And when the results are
in, he's confident he'll be coach again, he said.
"You generally get measured by the way you handle these kinds
of situations rather than the ones that are given to you and that
are pretty easy to take care of," he said. "It's still a great
opportunity for me, and that's the way I look at it."