Liaison says his advice was ignored

Updated: June 10, 2004, 1:56 PM ET
Associated Press

BOULDER, Colo. -- A liaison hired to examine the University of Colorado athletics department because of a football recruiting scandal says he recommended hiring a new athletic director, advice that was ignored.

John DiBiaggio said he stopped short of recommending to university President Elizabeth Hoffman and Boulder campus Chancellor Richard Byyny that Dick Tharp be fired. But he did suggest changing Tharp's duties.

"If you have a dean and there's a problem in the school, the dean's held accountable," DiBiaggio told The Denver Post in Thursday's editions. "You turn to the person that is accountable for that particular operation, and you say, 'You're supposed to have done your job.' And if they haven't ... you put somebody else in charge of that particular function."

DiBiaggio did not immediately return a call Thursday. Tharp, through a university spokesman, declined to comment.

Hoffman and Byyny last month announced broad changes in the department and its oversight to address problems surrounding sex and alcohol in the recruiting program. The only personnel decision they made was to reinstate head football coach Gary Barnett, who had been suspended in February.

DiBiaggio, a former president of three universities and a member of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, was paid about $21,000 per month for roughly three months of work this spring. His report to Hoffman and Byyny has not been made public.

The university's reform plan contains many of DiBiaggio's policy recommendations, but he said it was not as strong as he would have liked in demanding accountability in athletics.

A change in personnel would have been the strongest policy statement the university could have made, he said.

"I don't think Tharp's a bad person," he said. "It's a matter of ... are they prepared to do the things that need to be done."

CU spokeswoman Michele Ames said Hoffman and Byyny believe the decisions they made were in the best interests of the university and its students, and stand behind their decision to keep Tharp.

Byyny told the Rocky Mountain News that DiBiaggio made no specific personnel recommendations. He said DiBiaggio's chief concern was whether the university was serious about making changes.

DiBiaggio said he did not recommend that Tharp be fired.

"That's not the only alternative," he said. "The alternative is to move people into other capacities. You must remember that Dick Tharp is an attorney, and there are other capacities that he could fill in the institution."

DiBiaggio said he was troubled by Tharp's partial ownership of Liquor Mart, a large liquor store near campus. Last week, Tharp announced he was resigning from the store's board of directors to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, but said he will retain his ownership share.

Several members of an investigative panel formed by CU's regents to investigate the recruiting problems have said they disagreed with the decision to retain Tharp and Barnett. The commission, however made no specific personnel recommendations in its final report that accused Tharp of ignoring Byyny's requests to reform the athletic department.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press