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Barnett placed on paid leave by school

DENVER -- Colorado football coach Gary Barnett was suspended
for his comments about a female player who accused a teammate of
rape, the latest blow to an already-troubled football program.

Barnett was placed on paid leave Wednesday night by university
president Elizabeth Hoffman, who also said she was "utterly
distressed" over comments Barnett made in a 2001 police report
filed by another woman who said a football player raped her.

Barnett, 57, will be on leave while an independent committee
investigates a burgeoning list of allegations involving the
football program, including rapes, recruiting parties featuring
alcohol and sex, escort services and hiring strippers.

Barnett said he disagreed with Hoffman's decision but apologized
and accepted it, calling himself "a team player." He also said
the police report contained some inaccuracies.

The suspension came one day after he criticized the performance
of former Colorado kicker Katie Hnida, who said she was raped by a
teammate four years ago. The coach called her an "awful" player
and said she couldn't "kick the ball through the uprights."

Hnida, who now plays for the University of New Mexico, last year
became the first woman ever to score points in a Division I-A
football game.

Ryan Johanningmeier, who was a team captain while Hnida played
at Colorado, said Thursday some teammates could be "a bit nasty."

"However, we all get called names. I got called names," he
told ABC-TV's "Good Morning America."

Johanningmeier said that when one player's comments about Hnida
got too personal, Barnett "gave this guy a pretty good reprimand
in front of the team, reminded us once again that this was a player
on the team who needs to be treated with respect. A lot of it
stopped at that point, from what I saw."

Hoffman called Barnett's Tuesday comments "extremely
inappropriate and insensitive" remarks were the main reason
Barnett was put on administrative leave, Hoffman said.

"Rape is a horrific allegation and it should be taken
seriously," she said.

After spending much of Wednesday commenting about Barnett's
remarks, Hoffman learned police had released the report that quoted
an unidentified woman saying Barnett told her he "would back his
player 100 percent" if rape charges were pursued. The woman
declined to file charges.

Hoffman said she learned of the woman's rape allegation
recently, but it was unclear when Barnett first knew of it.

The accusations involving the football program that have
surfaced over the past three weeks stem from civil lawsuits filed
by three women against the school. They said they were raped by
players or recruits at or after an off-campus party in December
2001.

No assault charges have been filed in those cases, but Boulder
County prosecutor Mary Keenan said in a deposition for one of the
lawsuits that she believes the football program uses alcohol and
sex to entice recruits.

An adult entertainment company has also said CU players
regularly hired strippers for recruiting parties, and the
university acknowledged that an escort service was called from a
cell phone that had been assigned to a former football recruiting
aide.

CU formed an independent investigative committee this week to
look into the accusations, with the goal of issuing a report on
April 30. Hoffman also said she would hire an administrator to
oversee athletics, reporting directly to her and Chancellor Richard
Byyny.

A spokesman for the investigative committee declined comment on
Barnett's leave.

Hnida told Sports Illustrated that she was assaulted in the
summer of 2000 at the home of a teammate while attending Colorado.
Asked why she didn't tell police, she said she was afraid of the
player and didn't want a "media mess."

Barnett later that day snapped at a reporter who asked him about
her abilities. "It was obvious Katie was not very good. She was
awful," he said. "Katie was not only a girl, she was terrible.
OK? There's no other way to say it."

During a brief news conference in Boulder late Wednesday,
Barnett apologized "for answering that question in a manner where
I must have come across as insensitive."

He said his remarks had been taken out of context or
misinterpreted.

Hoffman, who was not present for Barnett's press conference,
said the coach "was not apologetic" when she discussed his
remarks with him earlier. "It was my feeling ... that he did not
understand the seriousness of the comments he had made the day
before," Hoffman said.

Byyny said an interim head coach would be named, probably within
48 hours, and most likely would be an assistant coach currently on
the staff.

Gov. Bill Owens agreed with Hoffman's decision.

"In view of the serious allegations concerning the CU football
program, the action taken this evening by President Hoffman is both
appropriate and necessary," Owens said in a statement.

CU athletic director Richard Tharp also supported the decision
to place Barnett on leave.

Barnett was hired to coach Colorado's football team five years
ago with the goal of ending an era of loose recruiting practices
and return the team to national prominence.

He has led Colorado to a Big 12 Conference title and a BCS bowl
game in his five seasons as head coach. But during the last two
seasons, nine players were suspended for various violations of team
rules, including curfew and behavior standards.

Barnett's contract runs through 2006.