Recruits under much stricter watch
AURORA, Colo. -- The University of Colorado announced sweeping changes to its scandal-ridden football program Thursday, putting recruits under the close supervision of parents and coaches and barring them from visiting bars and private parties.
|New CU Policy Highlights|
--The Associated Press
Calling the new guidelines the strictest in the nation, university President Betsy Hoffman and Chancellor Richard Byyny said recruits will now visit the Boulder campus during the offseason so coaches and athletes will have more time to focus on them.
All activities will be planned, approved and supervised by a coach.
The recruits, primarily high school athletes, will also be under strict supervision and campus visits will be limited to a single night's stay, instead of the usual two. The 1 a.m. curfew coaches had long said was the only one at the Division I level will also be moved up to 11 p.m.
"As painful an experience as it may be, we view it as an opportunity to set the standard for an issue all colleges and universities must be concerned about," Hoffman said.
Asked if the strict new guidelines will hurt recruiting, Byyny said: "It really doesn't matter. We want to have a model program."
"We want to make sure students understand they are here first for an education," he said.
Athletic director Dick Tharp said the new policies would be evaluated for other athletic programs.
Seven women have accused Colorado football players or recruits of rape since 1997, though no charges have been filed. Coach Gary Barnett is on paid leave 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 for recruits and taking recruits to parties with booze. Boulder County prosecutor Mary Keenan has said she believes the program offers sex and alcohol to lure recruits to Boulder, a claim university officials have denied. The school faces federal lawsuits filed by three women who say they were raped by football athletes at or just after a 2001 off-campus recruiting party.
The Board of Regents appointed a panel to investigate and Gov. Bill Owens tabbed Attorney General Ken Salazar as a special prosecutor to determine whether criminal charges should be filed. The scandal helped spur a congressional hearing on college recruiting practices that is scheduled for next week.
Hoffman said some of the changes have been discussed for more than two years. She also said the changes were consistent with what Barnett was considering before he was put on leave.
"There's no question circumstances have thrust us into taking a national leadership role in reforming college sports recruiting," Hoffman said. "I suspect other universities will follow some of the leads we've been taking."
There has been speculation the scandal will cost Barnett or someone else their job. Hoffman said the changes announced Thursday included no personnel changes.
"The university can't stop just because we have an investigation going on," she said. "We have to make decisions as we go along."
Former player Charles Johnson said the changes only add to the perception that athletes, particularly football players, "are a danger to our campus and we have to reduce their exposure to the campus in order to either keep them or other students on campus safe."
"It's wrong," he said.
Tharp responded: "This is not to say that we believe that we somehow have an aberrant program. We're just trying to advance ourselves along this process."
The guidelines were announced a few hours after the regents added a victims' advocate to the seven-member panel investigating the scandal. Jean McAllister works in the domestic abuse assistance program in the state Department of Human Services and will soon be the executive director of the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
Owens had urged the board to also add a prosecutor to the panel. A proposal to expand the panel, however, failed on a tie vote, leaving the possibility of only one addition.
The regents also approved a $450,000 budget for the scandal investigation. No state funds will be used. The sum includes $100,000 for John DiBiaggio, who will serve as a special liaison between university officials and the athletics program through June.
An NCAA task force will look at recruiting practices this spring. Jeff Howard, a spokesman with the National Collegiate Athletics Association, said Colorado's moves sounded like a good idea.
"Obviously, the university's leadership is moving in a direction that will help ensure that any recruiting practices in the future adhere to the university's strict guidelines," he said.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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