Thursday, February 19, 2004

Buffalo in a China Shop

Buffalo in a China Shop
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
February 19, 2004

It would be an affront to morons the world over to call University of Colorado football coach Gary Barnett a moron, but he is on so many levels. If he can’t be fired for insensitivity, perhaps he could be dismissed for criminal negligence.

The numerous and ever-growing rape allegations on the Boulder campus are so severe they are relegating the sex scandal involving potential recruits to “below the fold.” Yet, the two are related. The decision by University of Colorado President Elizabeth Hoffman to place the head football coach on paid administrative leave is generous, because she is attempting to be fair while an investigation is ongoing.

Barnett is innocent until proven guilty on the criminal level, yet he has already proven himself to be guilty on the lack of intelligence level.

For those not reading a sports page, at least seven women, as of this date, have come forward with accusations of rape and/or sexual assault. Tragically this story should be featured in harder news sections because it is a serious indictment of the ever dissolving social mores. Rapes/assaults have occurred at parties where underage football recruits have been lured with sex as well as rapes that have alleged to have been committed by University football players. These incidents are reported to have occurred between summer 2000 and 2002.

One such accuser is Katie Hnida a former University of Colorado place kicker who ultimately transferred to the University of New Mexico where she became the first female to appear in a college football bowl game. Last year Hnida became the first female to score points in a Division I-A college football game.

Her former coach commented, when asked about the allegation, that “Katie was not only a girl, she was terrible… she couldn’t kick the ball through the uprights,” said Barnett, who has been coach at Colorado for five years and has a contract running through the 2006 season. Not exactly a supportive fellow. For those comments Hoffman levied the suspension. For his comments alone Barnett should be fired. The cloud of controversy ought to keep him off a major school’s payroll for a good long while.

In another instance, Barnett has been accused of telling another alleged victim that he “would back his player 100 percent,” should she pursue charges. Barnett proved himself to be a hypocrite by blindly supporting one player, yet chastising another’s skills on the field publicly.

Additionally, Barnett has denied knowing about the after-hours parties where sex and drugs have been made available to potential recruits to the school. Charges have been made that hookers and sex escorts were paid to attend and “entertain” at such parties. Barnett may not know the specifics, but to suggest that he is unaware that such events took place is disingenuous at best and perhaps even criminal. Barnett, as head coach, is seeking to bring qualified student-athletes to the university to play football. If he or any of his assistant coaches invite a potential recruit to the Boulder campus, they should be held responsible for the actions that student takes and, provide appropriate activities for that young person. This should be the rule rather than the exception for any recruit of any sport at any college or university.

Sex parties or parties with strippers are not necessary to lure a potential college athlete to a campus. If that is what it takes there is a total disconnect regarding what the spirit of college athletics is all about. Competition over signing new recruits is fierce, true, but these are supposed to be student-athletes and for the scholarship recruit they have an opportunity to have their education paid for – that should be inducement enough.

Upon completion of a full investigation by Boulder police, should any person affiliated with the University of Colorado football team be found culpable of any of these sexual allegations, stiff penalties must be levied. The entire coaching staff should be fired – any involved brought up on charges. The football team should be disbanded for up to three years depending upon the number of offenses where guilt is found. Any players or former players involved should also face criminal charges. Any players not physically involved but had knowledge of such activities should be expelled from the university if they are still enrolled.

I am a huge college sports fan, but this goes beyond the gridiron, hardwood floor and foul lines. I am calling for the death penalty at the University of Colorado for its football team if members of the team past or present committed such heinous acts.

Too many athletes, rock stars, entertainers and even some politicians and sadly teachers and religious leaders have taken physical and/or emotional advantage of admirers or underlings without penalty. It’s time for that to stop and for people to speak up.

Katie Hnida and the other accusers should have spoken up sooner, but because of fear of lack of support or fear of not being believed, they did not. Colorado football coach Gary Barnett should be fired now for his absolutely moronic remarks about Hnida, which only supported her fears. The University of Colorado should have forged ahead with its investigation months ago. There are lessons to be learned here. Hopefully other women in this situation will speak up sooner. But more importantly, hopefully no more women on college campuses or anywhere will be put through such a violation.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and political consultant living in Alexandria, VA.

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