A panel investigating the University of Colorado athletic department has concluded that sex, alcohol and drugs were used to lure football recruits to the program but that school officials, including football Coach Gary Barnett, did not knowingly sanction the practice.
The 45-page final report issued by an eight-member Independent Investigative Commission was obtained by the Rocky Mountain News and posted Tuesday on its website. The report will be made public today and presented to the university's Board of Regents.
The commission was critical of Athletic Director Richard Tharp and also of Barnett, who was put on paid administrative leave in February.
The report concluded that Tharp and Barnett "minimized the importance of the recruiting problems, and the coach and his assistants provided insufficient supervision of recruits. Barnett behaved with insensitivity toward issues of sexual assault and sexual harassment and did not follow protocols in this area."
Nine women have said they were raped by Colorado football players or recruits since 1997, although no criminal charges have been filed.
The regents created the commission in February to investigate charges made in three federal lawsuits against the school.
The panel concluded that university officials knew the use of sex and alcohol in the recruiting process was common at Colorado and nationwide but waited too long to take corrective action.
The commission also said it would "be remiss if it did not acknowledge the positive steps taken by Barnett after his return to the university in 1999. He created and annually updates a player handbook that includes material on alcohol abuse, sexual assault and acquaintance rape. He has handed down 48 suspensions to 34 different players, including revoking spring semester scholarships for the four players involved in the events of Dec. 7, 2001."
Barnett's future as Colorado coach could turn on the report's conclusions. In February, Colorado President Elizabeth Hoffman put Barnett on leave as the scandal widened and shortly after Barnett had made controversial comments about former Colorado kicker Katie Hnida, who said she was raped by a Colorado teammate.
Barnett told Associated Press on Tuesday that he had mixed emotions about the report. "I'm not relieved, because I didn't expect them to find anything," he said. "I'm not happy because I didn't want to go through this process. Vindication is probably the best word."
University regents will vote today on whether to accept the commission's report and forward it to Hoffman, who has said she would determine Barnett's fate by May 31.
The commission concluded that Hoffman had to evaluate whether Chancellor Richard Byyny, Tharp and Barnett were "capable of and committed to providing the leadership necessary to effect profound changes in culture, structure and reporting systems at the university."
The commission also concluded that the regents should evaluate Hoffman's capability in providing the leadership needed to restore Colorado's reputation and integrity. "As the university's chief administrator," the commission reported, "Hoffman failed to exercise sufficient oversight until pressured by the governor and lawmakers."