Colorado needs to state its priorities
The University of Colorado could produce 50 Nobel Prize winners in the next decade and it would still be known for the ongoing sex scandal in its football program.
That's how big this mess is.
Boulder police announced Thursday they were investigating yet another allegation of sexual assault involving a Colorado football player, which brings the total to six accusations. Sadly, judging from a series of damning stories by The Associated Press and in this week's Sports Illustrated, that number can be expected to rise.
According to the SI story, a number of potential recruits were given - or more accurately, simply had without asking - sex with women on official recruiting trips to Colorado.
This goes beyond the usual "hiring strippers to perform for underage kids or bringing them to strip clubs" or even "bringing underage kids to parties, getting them drunk and introducing them to women." In the world of big-time college football those things don't even raise an eyebrow anymore.
This is a case of recruits reportedly having sex with intoxicated or passed-out women. It's a case of players sexually harassing a female teammate, kicker Katie Hnida, and one allegedly raping her.
And it's a case where the head football coach, Gary Barnett, shrugs off Hnida's alleged rape by saying 'Kate was not only a girl, but she was terrible, OK? There's no other way to say it.'
That came from the mouth of the highest paid employee at Colorado, the public face of the university.
Predictably, Colorado's administration has acted in uninspired fashion, first announcing the formation of a committee to investigate the football program, and then after Barnett made his ludicrous remarks, placing the coach on paid administrative leave.
Paid administrative leave? That's not a punishment, that's a vacation. If Colorado's administration had any guts, it would fire Barnett.
Granted, just as it's foolish to think that Colorado is the only school that has a problem involving its football program and sex, it's equally unwise to assume that Barnett is entirely responsible for this current scandal.
Barnett walked into a culture where football players were virtual demigods on campus, where their sense of entitlement appeared to know no bounds, because nobody ever said "no" to them.
Is the head coach supposed to take 18-year-olds and mold them into men? It would be nice to say yes, but that doesn't represent the reality of modern college football.
Coaches like Barnett are expected to win and to keep their players under control, to represent the university reasonably well.
He may have tried - reports vary about how much Barnett knew about what was going on and what he attempted to do - but he failed miserably at the latter.
All but one of the alleged assaults occurred under Barnett's watch. Because he was, at best, asleep at the wheel - or at worst, willing to turn a blind eye to the felonious behavior of his players - the Colorado football program is in a state of complete disgrace.
Luckily for Barnett - who's said on Thursday's "Larry King Live" that he expects to keep his job - the Colorado administration cares more about winning than the safety of its female students.
Colorado is no stranger to controversy, dating back to when then-coach Bill McCartney's program ran afoul of the law in the late '80s, but the culture of the program - where football players are allowed to do whatever they please without consequence - has hardly changed regardless of who was in charge.
Barnett was supposed to be the guy who cleaned up the mess at Colorado left by Rick Neuheisel - whose program committed more than 50 NCAA violations in four years - but he's failed miserably.
Firing Barnett will not solve all the problems in Boulder, but it will be a declaration by the school that it is sincere about cleaning up its out-of-control football program.
Actually, if the Colorado powers-that-be truly cared about repairing their national reputation, they would suspend the football program entirely. (The players could be released from their scholarships and allowed to transfer without the traditional one-year waiting period.)
It would be a strong statement that at Colorado, integrity comes first. It would send a message to the rest of the nation's colleges, and it could embolden other scandal-plagued schools to get tough in the future.
It will never happen. Expect Gary Barnett back on the Colorado sidelines this fall, and don't be shocked if another female gets attacked by a football player in the future.
Why wouldn't it happen again? By putting Barnett on paid administrative leave, the Colorado administration has said all you need to know about the school's priorities.
Rich Polikoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 539-6882.