School went too far, former QB says

Updated: March 5, 2004, 8:59 PM ET
Associated Press

DENVER -- Colorado's strict new rules for football recruits are being hailed as a badly needed step that will burnish the university's battered image and perhaps keep athletes from wrongdoing.

But some recruiting experts said the rules may cost Colorado when it comes to landing young stars. And one former player said it sends a message to high school students that they can't be trusted.

Colorado announced the new rules Thursday, responding to allegations that it uses alcohol and sex to attract athletes and digging out from the middle of a scandal in which women say they were raped by football athletes.

Recruiting visits will now include one night's stay, not two, and will come primarily during the offseason. There will be an 11 p.m. curfew. All activities will be supervised by parents or coaches and recruits are prohibited from going to bars, strip clubs or private parties.

A violation means the athlete will not be admitted to Colorado. The rules may be added to other Colorado sports later.

Football coach Gary Barnett, who is on paid leave for remarks he made in connection with two rape allegations, said he had been working on some of the changes since early this year.

"We always take this time of year and look at everything we do to see if the situation dictates that we change," he said in an interview. "These changes are a result of changes in the climate and atmosphere around recruiting, and it doesn't mean that anybody before was doing anything wrong."

Barnett, emphasizing he was not speaking as a school representative, said he thought the new rules could only help.

"In some ways we've sort of thrown down the gauntlet and said, 'Let's see you match this standard,' " he said. "It sends a message to parents and young people that we're going to have you spend a lot of time with our players and the social aspects of school you can get some other time."

Recruiting analyst Bob Gibbons said it was the most stringent list of restrictions he has seen and is likely to put Colorado at a disadvantage when it competes for athletes against schools without such tough rules.

Recruits will feel belittled by the rules, and some do want a good time while visiting, he said.

"I truly believe that in football recruiting for some of the higher-profile athletes, they have come to expect this type of treatment, and a school that doesn't do it, it may impair their recruitment of top players," Gibbons said.

Still, said Bob Rigney, founder and chief executive of the National Scouting Report, giving recruits the "warm, fuzzy feeling" a school wants to impart doesn't have to involve boozy parties or immoral activities.

Former Buffaloes quarterback Charles Johnson said former teammates have told him they did not choose Colorado just because they were able to attend raucous parties on recruiting visits.

Some of the changes likely will have a positive result, but overall, Colorado went too far, Johnson said.

"CU blew by reform and the totality of the changes are more punishment than anything else, and it sends the message to a parent and a young kid that we just don't trust you," Johnson said. "If anyone believes it's not going to adversely effect recruiting, then they're sticking their heads in the sand."

Other experts said the guidelines probably won't cost Colorado the high school stars it needs to stay competitive with Nebraska, Oklahoma and the rest of the Big 12.

"If a kid's going to single you out because you're not going to take them out and party with them, then maybe that's something that you don't want to be involved with," recruiting analyst Jeremy Crabtree said.

He said the new rules are more likely to help recruiting.

"It allows you to go out there and show parents and kids and high school coaches that we're taking positive steps and that we're serious about football and serious about academics," Crabtree said.

The university is trying to restore its image after six women accused Colorado football players or recruits of rape since Barnett took over the program. No charges have been filed, but three of the women have filed federal lawsuits claiming the university did nothing to improve an environment that was hostile to women.

There also have been accusations strippers were hired for recruits, and Boulder County prosecutor Mary Keenan has said she believes the football program offered sex and alcohol to lure recruits to Boulder, a claim university officials have denied.

Boulder campus Chancellor Richard Byyny said it doesn't matter if recruiting suffers.

"We want to have a model program," he said. "We want to make sure students understand they are here first for an education."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press