DENVER – Already mired in a scandal that includes rape allegations, the University of Colorado (search) suffered another blow Tuesday when an adult entertainment company confirmed that football players hired strippers for recruiting parties as recently as two weeks ago.
Steve Lower, president of Hardbodies Entertainment Inc. (search) in Denver, said athletes at Colorado and universities around the country have been paying strippers to entertain recruits for years.
"It's a tradition, like throwing a bachelor party," he said.
Lower said students or athletes at the University of Houston, Rice University, University of Northern Colorado and Colorado State University also have hired his dancers.
"Yes, these have been our girls doing it, and no, the college has absolutely not paid for it, condoned it or been aware of it," he said.
Officials at most of the schools did not return calls seeking comment.
"If this is true, it is a violation of what we teach them and tell them," Colorado football coach Gary Barnett (search) said. Houston athletic director Dave Maggard said he and football coach Art Briles were not aware of any strip parties.
Earlier this month, St. John's University suspended five basketball players for breaking curfew to go to a strip club. University of Minnesota officials are investigating whether high school football recruits visited bars and a strip club during a visit in December.
According to National Collegiate Athletic Association rules, a school "may not arrange or permit excessive entertainment," though it is unclear what constitutes excessive. The NCAA is convening a panel this spring to discuss recruiting problems.
Colorado was plunged into scandal last week with the disclosure of allegations that it uses sex and women to entice recruits.
The claim was made by Boulder County District Attorney Mary Keenan in one of three federal lawsuits filed by women who say they were raped at an off-campus party in December 2001 attended by Colorado players and recruits.
Last week, police said they were also investigating whether Colorado football players hired prostitutes from an escort service.
University officials have denied the school uses sex parties as a recruiting tool. Last week, Barnett suspended four players, including one for taking a recruit to a strip club.
The Board of Regents has ordered a special commission to investigate and prepare a report by April 30.
Regent Jim Martin, who has been critical of how university administrators have handled the scandal, said investigators should find out where the money to pay for the strippers came from.
Colorado players testified in depositions that they get $30 from athletic department officials to host recruits. Lower said it costs $250 for two strippers to dance for an hour.
"It is usually paid for by friends of the players," said Lower, who spoke first with the Rocky Mountain News.
Hardbodies dancer Jennifer Nass, 23, said she has stripped at about a half dozen Colorado recruiting parties.
"No one who is a parental figure or coach has ever attended," she said in a telephone interview.
The Board of Regents' panel is being co-chaired by former lawmakers Joyce Lawrence and Peggy Lamm. Lawrence drew criticism last week when she suggested the alleged victims should be asked why they went to the party.
Regents President Peter Steinhauer said he still backs Lawrence's role on the panel.
"I think she probably wishes she could take her comments back," he said. "But we want people who ask tough questions. And that is a question we should ask."