Parents offended by governor's comments

Updated: May 17, 2004, 11:54 PM ET
Associated Press

DENVER -- The mothers of three University of Colorado football players asked Gov. Bill Owens to apologize Monday for calling the school's football recruiting scandal an embarrassment to the state.

The parents had a closed-door, hour-long meeting with the governor, telling him the school needs support.

"Unjust comments made by you stating that the football program is an embarrassment to the entire state of Colorado have hurt us deeply. We would like you to reconsider your statement and issue an apology to our sons and their coaches," the three parents said in a statement afterward.

They also asked the governor to support the reinstatement of football coach Gary Barnett.

Owens made the comments during a Feb. 22 television interview with Fox News, saying the school has a good educational institution but the football program "has been an embarrassment."

Owens' spokesman, Dan Hopkins, said the governor "felt that there was a useful exchange of information" with the parents and thanked them for expressing their concerns.

The meeting was held shortly after an independent commission investigating the scandal delivered its final report to the Board of Regents after nearly three months of work. The report will be formally released to the public Wednesday.

The panel was asked to determine whether sex and alcohol were used as recruiting tools by the university and make recommendations on how to prevent problems. Regents chairman Peter Steinhauer said the regents will vote on whether to accept the report, then turn it over to CU President Betsy Hoffman for action.

"The regents do not act on positions lower than dean. We don't vote on coaches or professors. We will turn it over to President Hoffman for her decision," Steinhauer said.

At least nine women have said they were sexually assaulted by players or recruits since 1997, though no charges have been filed. Three of the women have sued the school in federal court, accusing it of failing to protect them from being assaulted.

Attorney General Ken Salazar, tapped as a special prosecutor at the height of the scandal in February, said last week his review turned up no new evidence warranting criminal charges. Boulder police also cleared two football players in one of the cases.

Barnett was suspended for comments he made in two of the cases, including that of former Colorado player Katie Hnida, who said she was raped by a teammate in 2000. University President Betsy Hoffman has said Barnett's fate depends on the outcome of the panel's investigation.

Dianne Littlehales, whose son, Tyler, plays for the team, criticized the investigative panel. She said most of those who testified came from special interest groups and rape victim support groups.

"There were all sorts of special interest groups taking up the panel's time. They were all relating their special agenda," she said.

Evan Dreyer, spokesman for the commission, said the panel worked hard under difficult circumstances and tight deadlines.

The 40-page report with another 15 pages of attachments was drafted after commissioners met for 22 hours during three closed sessions earlier this month.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press