Board leaves personnel decisions to CU president

Updated: May 19, 2004, 9:29 PM ET
Associated Press

BOULDER, Colo. -- With surprisingly little discussion, the board in charge of the University of Colorado said Wednesday it will wait for suggestions from the school president before deciding whether anyone will take the fall for the football recruiting scandal.

The Board of Regents formally accepted a scathing investigative report that concluded administrators didn't condone sexual misconduct or alcohol abuse but they repeatedly failed to keep tabs on athletics.

It then turned the 50-page report over to university President Betsy Hoffman, who was singled out in the document for failing to act until she was pressured by lawmakers and Gov. Bill Owens earlier this year.

Hoffman, who has headed the university since 2000, said she will have a preliminary plan by the end of May on what steps will be taken in response to the scandal. She said that will include a decision on the fate of suspended football coach Gary Barnett.

She waited just until afternoon to issue a statement strongly supporting university Chancellor Richard Byyny, portrayed throughout the report as not following through on edicts to the athletic department. Hoffman said she believes Byyny "can lead the campus through the significant changes ahead."

Hoffman received strong backing from Regents Chairman Peter Steinhauer and other board members, some of whom hugged her before the meeting began in front of a crowd that included the parents of football players.

"Now is the time to heal," Steinhauer said. "I want to make it crystal clear that we have the utmost confidence in President Hoffman."

Regent Jim Martin later said he was surprised at the lack of "hard-hitting questions" from his colleagues and that he expected a more thorough review of the work done by an eight-member investigative commission.

He said he thinks the regents will wait for Hoffman, "then come August, it's Buffalo football."

"The way I read things, everybody's jobs are safe," Martin said.

The report, issued Tuesday, did not recommend firing anyone. But it said the regents must decide whether Hoffman, Barnett, Athletics Director Richard Tharp and Byyny are capable of making the changes required to correct deep-rooted problems and restore the school's reputation after a scandal that includes allegations of rape.

The regents met behind closed doors Wednesday to discuss personnel issues, but released no details.

"Enough is enough. Let's move forward," Regent Jerry Rutledge said after the meeting began. He was applauded by the crowd when he said Tharp and Barnett "deserve and need an opportunity to show they can lead this university and right the ship."

Neither Tharp nor Barnett were at the meeting. Byyny left without comment and Hoffman declined to speak with reporters afterward.

Janine D'Anniballe, executive director of a Boulder rape crisis team called Moving to End Sexual Assault, was outraged that regents voiced support for campus administrators.

"It seemed more like a pep rally," she said. She said she doesn't think there will be any serious attempt to change leadership at the state's flagship school and was appalled when regents acknowledged the parents of players in the crowd.

"It shows how profoundly they missed the point," she said.

Others, however, were encouraged that the regents did not make any immediate job decisions.

"This is a bunch of hoopla over 2½-year-old news," said Kim Moss, a 1992 alumna and member of a group called Buff Defenders.

At least nine women have said they were raped by football players or recruits since 1997, though no charges have been filed and a recent review by the state attorney general found no evidence to warrant any. Three of the women have sued the school in federal court, accusing it of violating Title IX education law barring gender discrimination.

The investigative commission compiled its report after more than a dozen public meetings and a review of more than 20,000 documents including internal e-mails and depositions from the lawsuits. After Wednesday's meeting, some wondered whether their work will be taken seriously.

"There were a lot of wonderful words but not much substance in their remarks," said Luis Rovira, a former Colorado Supreme Court justice.

Another panel member, assault victims' advocate Jean McAllister, called it a "glaring omission" that the regents did not mention any of the women who have accused athletes of rape.

Commission co-chair Peggy Lamm said she was more interested in long-term solutions than hearing from the board. "I think the regents will take these considerations very seriously," she said.

Attorney David Powell said the commission had never planned to call for firings.

"That's not appropriate for us to do that," he said. "It would be a cop-out for the university to ask us, 'What should we do (about jobs)?'"


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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