Colorado State University hires same law firm that conducted Iowa football investigation

Colorado State University, following allegations that student-athletes have been threatened and intimidated to ignore coronavirus protocols, has hired the same firm that Iowa consulted to handle its recent racial bias probe.

Husch Blackwell, a law firm based in Kansas City, Missouri, started its CSU investigation on Thursday after multiple players, coaches and sports medicine staffers told both ESPN and the Coloradoan that players had been instructed to hide their symptoms by a position coach as coronavirus cases increased within the football team.

Staffers also expressed concerns that officials at the school had failed to provide an accurate picture of the growing outbreak to the state's Department of Public Health and Environment.

CSU president Joyce McConnell said she has not limited the scope of Husch Blackwell's investigation. Her letter to the athletic department announcing the hiring of the firm promised zero tolerance for any "attempts to retaliate against, pressure, or intimidate individuals who participate in the investigation."

"I think we've done a good job of setting the stage for athletes to feel comfortable as they participate in this investigation," McConnell told ESPN.

Iowa hired Husch Blackwell following a series of allegations tied to the football program's treatment of Black players, some involving former Iowa strength coach Chris Doyle, that emerged last month.

The firm produced a 28-page report that detailed systemic problems within the Iowa program's culture.

At Colorado State, multiple sources told ESPN that football coach Steve Addazio had vowed to return to practice "early" after the commencement of a 14-day quarantine that came a day after 27 players missed football practice last week due to COVID-19 symptoms or potential exposure.

On Monday, the entire team was re-tested. The university is awaiting the results.

Outside football, sources said they didn't feel current CSU athletes were "safe" due to constantly changing protocols and a lack of communication and consistency in handling quarantine procedures for athletes who have either tested positive or were potentially exposed.

McConnell told ESPN she anticipates Husch Blackwell will complete its investigation "pretty quickly."