Colorado football coach Gary Barnett, suspended since February in the midst of a sex and recruiting scandal that has crippled his program, will be reinstated by the school's president, according to a published report.
Colorado President Betsy Hoffman declined to comment on Barnett's status yesterday, but university officials scheduled a 1 p.m. EDT news conference for today. Members of the Board of Regents contacted yesterday said that while Hoffman had not yet informed them of her decision, which was reported by the Rocky Mountain News, they would be comfortable with such a move despite widespread accusations of sexual assaults.
"I think it's absolutely the right thing to do," regent Paul Schauer said by telephone yesterday. Schauer suggested that everyone "from the regents to the chancellor to the president to the athletic director to the coach to the players must be held more accountable."
Barnett did not return a message left at his home. He was suspended Feb. 18 after he made comments regarding some of the nine women who have accused Colorado football players or recruits of sexual assault since 1997, two years before Barnett took over the Buffaloes. Four separate investigations have since been launched into the Colorado program, focusing not only on the assault allegations but also on the use of sex and alcohol to entice recruits.
Earlier this month, an independent investigative panel, appointed by the regents, recommended that the athletic department and the football program should be more closely overseen, but suggested only minor changes in the chain of command.
"We've scrubbed this about as hard as you can," regent Tom Lucero said in a telephone interview. "As long as there's not some smoking gun out there, short of that, the only thing Gary Barnett is guilty of is saying some stupid things that he wishes he could take back and acknowledging that everyone -- the regents, the president, the chancellor, the athletic director and the coach -- have learned lessons as far as everyone stepping up and doing something to be more responsible for this."
Recently, some close to the program have argued that Barnett should stay. Former coach Bill McCartney wrote Hoffman this week, asking her not to "be deceived by the politically correct crowd." In a telephone interview yesterday, Patricia Klopfenstein, whose son, Joe, plays tight end for Colorado, said keeping Barnett is the right decision.
"This has been a long and painful process for all of us," Klopfenstein said. "What's lost in this is that people are innocent until proven guilty. A lot of the players were never even accused of anything, yet they were lumped together with everybody else and tarnished that way."