University of Colorado slaps tight rules on football recruiting

Friday, March 5th 2004, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

AURORA, Colo. (AP) _ No bars, no strip clubs and no private parties. All activities will be chaperoned. And curfew is 11 p.m.

The University of Colorado clamped strict new rules on football recruiting visits Thursday, hoping to sanitize its reputation after allegations that some recruits were entertained with sex, drunken parties and professional strippers. Other players or recruits were accused of rape.

``We want to make sure students understand they are here first for an education,'' Chancellor Richard Byyny said.

Byyny and university president Betsy Hoffman said the new guidelines are the strictest in the nation.

Asked if the rules will hurt recruiting, Byyny said: ``It really doesn't matter. We want to have a model program.''

The university is trying to restore its image after seven women accused Colorado football players or recruits of rape since 1997.

The school faces federal lawsuits by three of the women who say they were raped at, or just after, a 2001 off-campus party attended by players and recruits. Witnesses have said many of the participants were drunk.

Players also have been accused of hiring strippers for recruits.

Boulder County prosecutor Mary Keenan has said she believes the football program offered sex and alcohol to lure recruits to Boulder, a claim university officials have denied.

Football coach Gary Barnett is on paid leave for remarks he made in connection with two of the rape allegations, including disparaging the athletic ability of a former player who said she was raped by a teammate in 2000.

No sexual assault charges have been filed in any of the cases.

The Board of Regents has appointed a panel to investigate, and Gov. Bill Owens tabbed the state's attorney general as a special prosecutor to determine whether criminal charges should be filed.

The scandal helped spur a congressional hearing on college recruiting practices, scheduled for next week.

A National Collegiate Athletics Association task force will look at recruiting practices this spring. NCAA spokesman Jeff Howard said Colorado's moves sounded like a good idea.

``Obviously, the university's leadership is moving in a direction that will help ensure that any recruiting practices in the future adhere to the university's strict guidelines,'' he said.

Hoffman said she didn't want to wait on the investigations before changing policies.

``The university can't stop just because we have an investigation going on,'' she said. ``We have to make decisions as we go along.''

Hoffman said some of the changes have been discussed for more than two years and were consistent with what Barnett was considering before he was put on leave.

``There's no question circumstances have thrust us into taking a national leadership role in reforming college sports recruiting,'' Hoffman said. ``I suspect other universities will follow some of the leads we've been taking.''

The recruits, primarily high school players, will visit the Boulder campus only during the offseason, when coaches and athletes have more time for them.

Players will meet with the recruits, but will no longer serve as their hosts. All activities will be planned and approved by a coach and supervised by a coach or parent.

The recruits' curfew was moved up two hours. Coaches had long said the old 1 a.m. curfew was the latest one at the Division I level.

Athletic director Dick Tharp said the new policies would be evaluated for other athletic programs.

Former player Charles Johnson said the new rules only add to the perception that football players ``are a danger to our campus and we have to reduce their exposure to the campus in order to either keep them or other students on campus safe.''

``It's wrong,'' he said.

Tharp responded: ``This is not to say that we believe that we somehow have an aberrant program. We're just trying to advance ourselves along this process.''