CU Coach Reinstated After Scandal

University of Colorado Logo with a gavel and a shadowy figure
AP / CBS
The University of Colorado reinstated suspended football coach Gary Barnett on Thursday and said no one would lose their jobs because of the school's sordid recruiting scandal.

University President Betsy Hoffman said the embattled athletics department will be restructured to reduce its autonomy. Richard Byyny, the chancellor in charge of the Boulder campus, said Barnett and athletics director Richard Tharp would remain at the school — amid much more accountability.

"Did coach Barnett say things that I and others have found offensive? The answer is yes. And for that he has paid a price," Byyny said in a prepared statement ahead of a news conference. "Tharp has contributed more than 30 years of service to this university and leadership position. Could he, in some instances, have performed better regarding the administration, policies and procedures? Yes."

He said, however, that officials had decided to grant Tharp's request to make changes. As for Barnett, the chancellor said student-athletes, both men and women, and others all described Barnett as a solid mentor and tough disciplinarian

"Each of these men brings a unique set of abilities, talents, personalities and, yes, shortcomings to their jobs, just as we all do," Byyny said. "They also bring an incredible level of dedication to their jobs and to this university."

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

One was former Buffaloes kicker Katie Hnida, who said she was raped by a teammate in 2000. Answering questions from reporters about Hnida, the coach called her a "terrible" player. He also told police he would "back" a player accused of assaulting a 19-year-old athletics department worker in 2001.

Local prosecutors and the state attorney general decided against filing assault charges in any of the nine cases. But three of the women have filed federal lawsuits, accusing Colorado of fostering a hostile environment that helped contribute to their assaults. Depositions in those suits helped spark the scandal in late January.

Earlier this month, an investigative commission appointed by the university Board of Regents and a special liaison chosen by Hoffman recommended more oversight of the athletic department, which has been led by Tharp since 1997.

Last week, the commission concluded sex, drugs and alcohol were used in recruiting but 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.