Former Colorado player says she was raped by fellow player

Updated: March 26, 2004, 6:35 PM ET

DENVER -- A female placekicker says she was raped by a teammate at the University of Colorado four years ago and didn't tell police because she was too frightened -- another hit to the scandal-plagued football program.

Katie Hnida makes the allegation in the upcoming edition of Sports Illustrated. She issued a statement Tuesday through the University of New Mexico where she is a student, saying she was healing from "horrors endured" at Colorado but does not mention rape. She said she did not plan to press charges.

Hnida's statement was intended to confirm the magazine account, New Mexico athletics spokesman Greg Remington said. Attempts to locate Hnida in Albuquerque, N.M., were not successful.

Colorado President Betsy Hoffman urged Hnida to report the alleged assault to police and said she was appointing a special administrator to monitor the school's reeling athletic department. She said she needed to make sure coach Gary Barnett's assurances that mistreatment of women would not be allowed were true.

Barnett said he was told of the alleged assault for the first time this week by a Sports Illustrated writer.

"It would help to know names, situations," Barnett said. "We could certainly delve into it a lot more deeply and a lot more seriously. Not that we're not doing it seriously now. But we just don't know where to go with it. But we will as soon as somebody tells us."

Asked what he would tell Hnida, who has criticized her treatment by Barnett and other Colorado players, the coach said: "I'd just say, 'Katie tell me who, that's all I want to know. Tell me who did these things."

The allegation comes after three weeks of stunning allegations involving the Colorado football program. Three women have sued the school in federal court, saying they were raped by players or recruits at or just after an off-campus party in December 2001.

No assault charges were filed, but Boulder County District Attorney Mary Keenan said in a deposition for one of the federal lawsuits she believes the school uses alcohol and sex to entice recruits.

The governor has urged the university to take action and an independent panel has been chosen to put together a report on recruiting practices by April 30. University officials have denied Keenan's allegations.

Hnida, 22, left Colorado after the 1999 season, later enrolling at New Mexico. Last August, she said she was a target of sexual harassment when she was at Colorado but did not mention rape.

She told Sports Illustrated, however, that she was assaulted in the summer of 2000 at the home of a teammate.

"He starts to kiss me," she said. "I told him, 'That's not OK.' Next thing I know he's on top of me. I told him, 'No!' ... I tried to push him off me, but he outweighed me by 100 pounds."

She said she was able to escape after the telephone rang. Asked why she didn't tell police, she said she was afraid of the player and didn't want a "media mess."

Hnida said Tuesday said she has been in contact with Colorado authorities, but did not expect to file charges "at this time."

Barnett, who last fall called Hnida "a distraction to our team," said the football program had taken steps to accommodate Hnida, including creating a separate locker room and providing extra security from an alleged stalker.

He said he and Hnida's father, Dr. Dave Hnida, met twice during his daughter's tenure on the team.

"At the end of the 1999 season, he made a call to our office thanking us for the way Katie was treated," he said. But later, the elder Hnida was upset about verbal and physical harassment of his daughter, including another player throwing a football at her head during practice.

But he insisted he had never heard a thing about sexual assault from Hnida or anyone else.

Hnida did not try out for the Buffaloes in 2000 after Barnett said he told her she would have to beat out other kickers for the job. Last fall, Hnida said she didn't return for several reasons, including "an incident" that summer.

Hnida later became the first woman to compete in a Division I-A football game when she attempted an extra point for New Mexico in the 2002 Las Vegas Bowl.

In the statement issued Tuesday, Hnida said her transfer to New Mexico has been a blessing.

"More than anything else, it has helped in my healing process," she said. "I have been able to play a game I love so much and also be part of a team that is like a family."