Report questions top officials' leadership

DENVER -- In a blistering report that stopped short of
calling for firings, an investigative panel said Tuesday that sex,
alcohol and drugs were used to lure football recruits to the
University of Colorado and lax oversight by top university
officials is to blame.

The university's Board of Regents formally accepted the report, but did not order leadership changes, after holding a closed-door session Wednesday.

The board turned the recommendations of a special
investigative panel over to one of the officials the report
criticized for allowing an atmosphere in which women accused
football recruits of rape.

That official, university President Elizabeth Hoffman, told the
board she would have a preliminary report by the end of this month
on steps that will be taken in response to the scandal.

Regents Chairman Peter Steinhauer expressed support for Hoffman.

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

The investigative panel's report said there was no evidence officials condoned
misconduct, but it suggested they were lazy or simply ignored what
was going on in the top athletic program at the state's flagship

"The university's leadership must be held accountable for
systemic failings that jeopardized students' safety and allowed for
ongoing misconduct in the football recruiting program," the report

The panel did not recommend firing anyone, but said the regents
must decide whether university President Betsy Hoffman, suspended
head football coach Gary Barnett, Athletics Director Richard Tharp
and Chancellor Richard Byyny are capable of making the sweeping
changes required to correct deep-rooted problems and restore the
school's reputation.

Members of the eight-person panel said their investigation had
simply confirmed that collegiate athletics nationwide are
undermined by a "hyper-competitive recruiting 'arms race' that is
complicated by the presence of big money, lucrative media and easy
access to alcohol and sex."

At Colorado, the panel said, some player-hosts "felt pressured
to impress recruits and resorted to providing alcohol, drugs and
sex, including visits to strip clubs and the hiring of strippers."
The report did not detail the alleged drug use.

The report had been
eagerly anticipated in part because Barnett's future depends in part on its conclusions.

The report said Barnett and his staff failed to provide
sufficient oversight of football recruits and he personally did not
follow protocol following reports of sexual assault or harassment
at least twice.

The report also singled out Tharp and Byyny for criticism, suggesting both failed to
pay proper attention to what was going on.

While the panel did not call for job changes, it said Hoffman must decide whether all three men are
capable of changing the culture, structure and reporting systems at
the Boulder school.

It also called on the regents to decide whether Hoffman herself
can restore the university's "integrity and reputation" after a
scandal that drew national scorn and criticism from Gov. Bill

"As the university's chief administrator, Hoffman failed to
exercise sufficient oversight until pressured by the governor and
lawmakers," the report said.

Barnett said the scandal has been hard on his family.

"I'm not sure of the word I'd use to explain how I feel," he
told The Associated Press. "I'm not relieved, because I didn't
expect them to find anything. I'm not happy because I didn't want
to go through this process. Vindication is probably the best

His agent, Gary O'Hagan, said the scandal reminded him
of the Salem witch trials.

"There are people who owe Gary Barnett an apology," he said.
"His entire family and he were dragged through the mud needlessly
because people have an agenda out there. ... Is he perfect? No. Did
he commit any crimes? No. Did he break any rules? No."

Regent Jim Martin said he was concerned the report would be
turned over to Hoffman and that would be the end of it. He declined
to say if people should lose their jobs, adding that he's "not on
a witch hunt."

"Gary Barnett ought not to be the fall person for anybody. This
is a culture problem," Martin said.

At least nine women have said they were raped by football
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 violating federal Title IX laws against gender discrimination
in education.

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

The report recommended that Salazar look into claims that
one-time recruiting aide Nathan Maxcey paid at least $2,000 in cash
over a 45-day period and arranged sex for young men, presumably
recruits, at a Boulder-area hotel. Maxcey has denied he obtained
escorts for recruits or players.

Salazar's spokesman, Ken Lane, said the investigation is not

"We continue to investigate other aspects of the recruiting
beyond the sexual assault allegations," Lane said.

Boulder County District Attorney Mary Keenan said the report
validated her claim that sex and alcohol were recruiting tools, an
allegation that helped spark the scandal earlier this year.

"I hope we go where we always wanted to go, the road to making
needed and effective change," Keenan said. "That's all anyone
ever wanted."

The regents' panel was formed to investigate Keenan's allegation
and determine whether university officials knew of wrongdoing.

"There is evidence demonstrating that sex, alcohol and drugs
were used as football recruiting tools by some player-hosts and
possibly a football recruiting assistant," the report concluded.
"There is no clear evidence that university officials knowingly
sanctioned this, or had direct involvement."

The commission, however, said the athletic department has long
lacked "strong oversight" from the president or chancellor, who
oversees the Boulder campus and its 25,000-plus students.

It said the athletic director should report directly to the
provost, rather than the chancellor -- and it had sharp criticism
for Tharp, the athletic director at Colorado since 1996.

"Tharp evaded and ignored repeated directives to implement
policy changes and failed to place appropriate boundaries around
the football coach," the report said. "The athletic director
espoused a philosophy of 'plausible deniability' when faced with
accusations of misconduct by student athletes and employees,
isolated himself from his staff and has not given his full
attention to his responsibilities."

As for Byyny, who has been in charge of the Boulder campus since
1997 the report said he had exerted little or no authority over
athletics and failed to implement the school's goal of putting
academics "above winning on the playing field."

Barnett was summed up as someone resistant to change with an
"unproductive, defensive attitude." He was suspended in February
over 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.

Hnida now is on the football team at the University of New

Patty Klopfenstein, mother of tight end Joel Klopfenstein, said
the report shows Barnett should be reinstated. "There is nothing
there. There was nothing there in the beginning," she said.

The commission blamed the NCAA for failing to address standards
of behavior.

"The commission observes that the NCAA has adopted rules
governing the number of logos a player can wear, yet fails to adopt
rules governing more substantial and potentially life-threatening
issues such as alcohol use, acquaintance rape and other
inappropriate behavior," the report said.

NCAA spokesman Wally Renfro said the recommendations will be
evaluated by a task force looking at recruiting practices