Barnett to stay; Tharp's future uncertain

BOULDER, Colo. -- If University of Colorado football coach Gary Barnett is reinstated Thursday, he will likely return to an athletic department facing stricter oversight, according to reports.

President Betsy Hoffman and Chancellor Richard Byyny planned a 1 p.m. ET news conference to discuss "decisions related to the athletic department and football program," the school said in a statement Wednesday.

University spokeswoman Michele Ames would not elaborate.

The Rocky Mountain News and Chicago Tribune have reported that Barnett would be reinstated, and KUSA-TV said late Wednesday that Barnett's return rested on the coach's willingness to accept certain conditions, including more education on how to handle sexual misconduct allegations.

While the Tribune reported that athletic director Dick Tharp is likely to lose his job, the Denver Post reported Thursday that Tharp would remain after agreeing to reforms, including reporting to Provost Phil DiStefano instead of Byyny and submitting to oversight by a board that includes faculty members.

The Post said unidentified sources questioned whether Tharp might eventually choose to leave because the reforms would sharply curtail his powers.

The news outlets all cited unidentified sources close to the university.

Parents of football players have been expecting Barnett's reinstatement but haven't heard anything official, said Patty Klopfenstein, whose son is a tight end on the team.

She sent players' parents an e-mail that was reprinted in the Rocky Mountain News. It stated: "There's going be an
impromptu party the night it is announced that Gary is reinstated.
It will be in the Boulder area, and most likely everyone will be
asked to bring something."

Klopfenstein said she wrote the e-mail to parents and was surprised to see it in the newspaper.

"I'm anticipating he will be reinstated, because he hasn't done anything wrong," Klopfenstein said. "From day one, we've been planning getting together celebrating his reinstatement. Not because we have inside information, but because we know the man."

Hoffman placed Barnett on paid administrative leave Feb. 18 after comments he made about some of the nine women who have alleged that they were sexually assaulted by Colorado football players or recruits since 1997.

One of the women was former Buffaloes kicker Katie Hnida, who said she was sexually assaulted by a teammate in 2000. While answering questions from reporters after the story appeared, Barnett said Hnida was a "terrible" player. Hnida now attends the University of New Mexico.

Barnett could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Last week, the 58-year-old coach told The Associated Press he expected to get his job back.

Colorado sociology professor Joanne Belknap was quoted by the Tribune as saying she was "devastated" by the reports that Barnett would be reinstated.

"It's very troubling to me that the Hnida comments alone weren't enough to get him fired," Belknap told the newspaper. "His smugness, his statements that he doesn't need to do anything differently … those are all the markings of a bad coach.

"I can't believe Gary Barnett can say these unbelievably sexist, hateful and victim-blaming things and he gets to keep his huge [$1.2 million] salary."

Earlier this month, an investigative panel appointed by the
Colorado Board of Regents and a special liaison whom Hoffman named
to study the school's sports programs recommended more oversight of
the athletic department, which has been led by Tharp since 1997.

Last week, the investigating commission concluded that sex and
alcohol were used in recruiting but that there was no evidence that
Colorado officials "knowingly sanctioned" them. The report
criticized Barnett, Tharp, Hoffman and Byyny for lax oversight and
slow reactions to recruiting problems.

Regents, though, affirmed that Hoffman's job was safe, and
Hoffman expressed her confidence in Byyny. Hoffman issued no
statement regarding Barnett and Tharp.

"If Tharp isn't fired, it's an additional smack in the face," Belknap told the Tribune.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.