DENVER – A female placekicker says she was raped by a teammate at the University of Colorado (search) four years ago and didn't tell police because she was too frightened -- another hit to the scandal-plagued football program.
In reaction, the university announced Tuesday it will hire a special administrator to oversee its athletics department and scandal-plagued football program.
The accusation by Katie Hnida that she was assaulted in the summer of 2000 is contained in the upcoming edition of Sports Illustrated.
Three other women have sued the school in federal court, saying they were raped by players or recruits at or after an off-campus party in December 2001.
No assault charges have been filed in those cases, but Boulder County prosecutor Mary Keenan said in a deposition for one of the lawsuits that she believes the football program uses alcohol and sex to entice recruits. Keenan did not return a call seeking comment Tuesday.
Hnida issued a statement Tuesday through the University of New Mexico (search), where she's a student, saying she was "healing" from "horrors endured" at Colorado. The statement does not mention rape, and she says she does not plan to press charges.
Hnida's statement, however, was intended to confirm the account in Sports Illustrated, said New Mexico athletics spokesman Greg Remington. Attempts to locate Hnida were not immediately successful.
University of Colorado President Elizabeth Hoffman and Chancellor Richard Byyny said the special administrator will work within the athletics department and report directly to them. They said they're seeking someone who is familiar with athletics programs at a major university.
"I think if this person is in the department every day, if such conduct exists this person would see it," Hoffman said.
Hoffman said she and Byyny trust athletic director Dick Tharp and football coach Gary Barnett but still need to monitor the situation to "perhaps save the university from imminent financial ruin."
Barnett said he was surprised by Hnida's allegation. He said the only time Hnida came to him was about an alleged stalker, and that the team and authorities had taken steps to protect her.
Asked if he intended to step down as Colorado's coach, Barnett said no.
The governor has urged the university to take action and an independent panel has been chosen to put together a report by April 30 on recruiting practices. University officials have denied Keenan's allegations.
Hnida, 22, left Colorado after the 1999 season, later enrolling at New Mexico (search). Last August, she said she was a target of sexual harassment when she was at Colorado but did not mention rape. She told Sports Illustrated, however, that she was assaulted in 2000 at a teammate's home.
"He starts to kiss me," she said. "I told him, 'That's not OK.' Next thing I know he's on top of me. I told him, 'No!' ... I tried to push him off me, but he outweighed me by 100 pounds."
She said she was able to escape after the telephone rang. Asked why she didn't tell police, she said she was afraid of the player and didn't want a "media mess."
Hnida did not try out for the Buffaloes in 2000 after Barnett said he told her she would have to beat out other kickers for the job. Last fall, Hnida said she didn't return for several reasons, including "an incident during that summer."
Hnida later became the first woman to compete in a Division I-A football game when she attempted an extra point for New Mexico in the 2002 Las Vegas Bowl.
The panel appointed to look into Colorado's recruiting practices has run into its own trouble because of potential conflicts of interest. Kenneth Vardell, a retired FBI agent, resigned after regents realized he had administered a lie-detector test to a player after the 2001 party.
Another commission member, Pentecostal bishop Phillip Porter, helped lead the Promise Keepers religious movement launched by former Colorado football coach Bill McCartney. Porter said board Chairman Peter Steinhauer had told him he wants him to remain on the commission.