<
>

Barnett: Team 'responded well' to ordeal

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- When talking about the sex allegations
that have rocked the Colorado football program, coach Gary Barnett
believes there is one word that should never be used.

"I'd like to officially not acknowledge the word 'scandal,' "
Barnett said Thursday at Big 12 football media day, "and would not
like to have that word dealt with in here."

Nevertheless, Colorado became the national focus of bad behavior
by college athletes last spring amid the allegations, which also
included charges that recruits were plied with consensual sex.

"No other team in college football is looking forward more to
the season than we are," Barnett said in his first meeting with
regional and national media since the allegations first came to
light.

"We are even looking forward to practice. This team ...
responded very well throughout the entire ordeal."

The school became the focus of national media attention early
this year after three women filed federal civil lawsuits claiming
Colorado failed to ensure them an equal opportunity for education
by fostering an environment that led to sexual assault. In all, at
least nine women have alleged they were sexually assaulted by
Colorado football players of recruits since 1997.

Barnett was suspended Feb. 18 after making disparaging comments
about two of the women, including former Colorado kicker Katie
Hnida, who had told a national magazine she was raped by a former
teammate in 2000.

Barnett was reinstated May 28 after an investigative panel
concluded he shouldn't be fired.

No sexual assault charges have been filed, but a state grand
jury is investigating the alleged rapes and allegations that a
former recruiting aide hired prostitutes for recruits.

State Attorney General Ken Salazar has been appointed by the
governor as a special prosecutor.

Nevertheless, Barnett said keeping focused on football shouldn't
be a problem for the team.

"We've learned a great deal over the last six months how to
handle that," he said. "If anybody's prepared to handle that, we
are."

The Buffaloes, he said, have emerged "a stronger and better
football team."

"I think we have a chance to be a pretty good team. We've got
11 starters back."

Barnett said he learned many things during the long ordeal.

"I took every day as a chance to learn something," Barnett
said. "What I learned for myself is how important friends are, how
important encouragement from your peers is, how important e-mail
is.

"Ten years ago I wouldn't have had access to 10-12 positive
e-mails every morning I woke up to that really got me through the
day and encouraged my family a great deal. "I learned that no
matter what happens that day, it isn't going to be terminal and no
matter what was going to happen the next day, that wasn't going to
be terminal, either."

He said he heard constantly from other coaches.

"I got tremendous support from almost every coach in this
conference," he said. "I bet I heard from 75 to 80 percent of my
peers in Division I. Some would e-mail, some would call. They were
tremendously supportive of me."

Quarterback Joel Klatt said the players would be able to keep
their focus on football.

"We still we had to go to school. We still had to be college
students and we still had to be college football players," he
said. "We did what we had to do and we did it to the best of our
abilities and we got closer because of it."

Barnett was asked what word he would use instead of scandal to
describe what befell the program.

"Give me some time to think about that," he said. "I refuse
to acknowledge (scandal) as a proper word to describe it."