Officials: School's reputation was at stake

Updated: June 30, 2004, 11:02 PM ET
Associated Press

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) -- University of Colorado officials said Wednesday the $814,000 they spent dealing with a football recruiting scandal was justified because the school's reputation was at stake.

Among the costs were $247,000 for help with communications, including handling media inquiries, and $170,770 for an internal investigation.

"When you have a challenge such as this, it is important that you move forward to investigate it," said University President Elizabeth Hoffman. "I'm not happy about spending $800,000, but the reputation of the university had to be maintained."

Pete Steinhauer, chairman of the Board of Regents, agreed. "This was not a good thing that happened here," he said in reference to claims by two women that they were sexually assaulted at a party for football players and recruits in 2001. A third woman said she was raped after the party.

An independent commission was appointed to investigate the scandal after Boulder District Attorney Mary Keenan accused the athletic department of using alcohol and sex to lure football recruits.

The commission's work was separate from an internal university investigation.

Asked if the investigations and subsequent changes would prevent future abuses, Steinhauer said, "I hope so. We have made a lot of reforms. It doesn't make everybody happy. We've taken some criticism from the athletic department for reducing recruits visits on campus. Hopefully it will pay off," he said.

The cost of the investigation by the independent commission, appointed by the regents, was $256,498. Other costs included $100,065 for a temporary athletics liaison and $13,440 for Hoffman to travel to Washington to testify at a congressional hearing.

Steinhauer said the costs would have been even higher except that university staff did considerable work for the commission.

Newly elected student body President Joseph Neguse said the cost seemed high for the time spent investigating.

"Only time will tell if it is worth it. It will depend on the kind of positive changes we see coming out of the athletic department," Neguse said.

Steinhauer predicted the university will have one of the cleanest athletic departments in the nation because it is being so closely watched. He said the reforms were unlikely to hurt the football program.

All the regents, including two who have been critical of the handling of the scandal, voted to bill the $814,000 to the athletic department.

The department will be allowed to borrow the money from a university emergency fund and pay it back within five years.

Student fees will not be used to cover the costs, Chancellor Richard Byyny assured regents.

Steve Golding, vice president for finance, said the athletic department budget has been in good shape but is already contending with a 3.5 percent cut. "They will be solvent but will have to walk a tight line," he said.

Golding said regents had already set aside $400,000 in March toward the costs of the investigation and related expenses.

He said the $814,000 figure is final except for legal costs of defending lawsuits filed by the three alleged assault victims. Those figures are not available yet because the cases are still ongoing, and will come out of a special university fund called a risk pool.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press