BOULDER, Colo. – The board that oversees the University of Colorado (search) held a closed-door session Wednesday, and the jobs of four top officials could be on the line after a blistering report blamed lax oversight for a football recruiting scandal (search).
In its report released Tuesday, an investigative panel said there was no evidence that officials condoned misconduct, but suggested they were lazy or simply ignored what was going on in the football program at the state's flagship university.
While the panel did not recommend firing anyone, it said the university's leaders must decide whether President Betsy Hoffman, suspended head football coach Gary Barnett (search), Athletics Director Richard Tharp and Chancellor Richard Byyny are capable of making the sweeping changes required to correct deep-rooted problems and restore the school's good name.
University spokeswoman Michele Ames declined to comment on the report, except to confirm that the Board of Regents discussed it at a closed-door meeting on personnel matters.
The board, which oversees the university and created the investigative panel, was expected to hold a public session later to question authors of the 50-page report.
The report said some football players who served as hosts for recruits during campus visits "felt pressured to impress recruits and resorted to providing alcohol, drugs and sex, including visits to strip clubs and the hiring of strippers." The report did not detail the alleged drug use.
At least nine women have said they were raped by football players or recruits since 1997, though no charges have been filed. Three of the women have sued the school in federal court, accusing it of violating federal Title IX laws against gender discrimination.
Attorney General Ken Salazar, tapped as a special prosecutor by the governor at the height of the scandal in February, said last week he had turned up no new evidence warranting criminal charges. Boulder police also cleared two football players in one of the cases.
The report said Barnett and his staff failed to sufficiently monitor football recruits and that he personally did not follow protocol following reports of sexual assault or harassment. While it said he didn't condone recruiting abuses, it also faulted him for lax oversight.
"I'm not relieved, because I didn't expect them to find anything. I'm not happy because I didn't want to go through this process. Vindication is probably the best word," Barnett said.
Tharp was singled out for especially sharp criticism. The report said he ignored orders and "espoused a philosophy of 'plausible deniability"' about alleged misconduct by athletes and employees.
Byyny, who as chancellor oversees the university's main campus in Boulder, was portrayed as an ineffective manager who exerted little authority over athletics and failed to pursue the school's stated goal of putting academics ahead of sports victories.
Hoffman also was criticized. "As the university's chief administrator, Hoffman failed to exercise sufficient oversight until pressured by the governor and lawmakers," the report said.
Gov. Bill Owens said he was "very concerned" at the panel's findings.
"I have a lot of confidence in Dr. Hoffman," Owens said. "I assume she will make the right decisions regarding what should be done to help make sure CU restores its focus."