What exactly does it take to get fired at Colorado?
The count is now five women who allege Colorado football players have sexually assaulted them over the past four years, four in the past 28 months. Three have filed civil suits against the school. One is so scared of repercussions that she refuses to name her assailant or file charges.
|At a lot of other schools, Gary Barnett might already have been fired by now.(AP)|
The school's board of regents responded by handing off the whole mess to an independent committee that is expected to complete its review in a scant 72 days.
The two common threads through the whole mess are coach Gary Barnett and the players he oversees and recruits.
"This university has really been shaken to its very core," CU regent Jim Martin said late Wednesday. "I liken it to a foundation with a severe crack."
Good reason, don't you think, to give Barnett a nice little paid vacation? What was doubly galling about the transparency of Barnett's administrative leave announced Wednesday night was that it was hardly about the alleged sexual assaults. It was about Barnett's insensitive reaction to them. He seemed to discount former kicker Katie Hnida's assertions that she was harassed and sexually assaulted by saying she was a "terrible" player.
As the ex-/former/future/deposed CU coach, Barnett stood on the same steps outside the football offices where he originally slammed Hnida on Tuesday. He then backpedaled Wednesday saying his remarks about Hnida were taken out of context and misinterpreted.
|Barnett's Career Record|
Uh, we've got the tape Gary.
"It was obvious Katie was not very good," Barnett said Tuesday. "She was awful. You know what guys do? They respect your ability. You can be 90 years old, but if you can go out and play, they'll respect you. Katie was not only a girl, she was terrible. OK? There's no other way to say it."
Barnett went on to say Wednesday that the police report resulting from the latest assault allegation in September 2001 contained "inaccuracies." A report that, CU president Elizabeth Hoffman seemed to say disdainfully, was "leaked to the press." At least Hoffman was disturbed that within the report Barnett apparently said he was "100 percent behind" the player alleged to have been involved.
Maybe the question is -- who has the authority (or stones) to fire Gary Barnett? It certainly isn't chancellor Richard Byyny or Hoffman, who took the coward's way out Wednesday night putting Barnett on paid administrative leave for what amounted to those insensitive comments.
Never mind that the program is careening out of control. Never mind that Barnett, or whoever eventually replaces him, can't recruit effectively again until man lands on Mars. A few slips of the tongue is what cost him his job -- and only for the moment.
Has anyone at CU thought to issue an apology to these women? Or does that compromise some future court case? Instead it's all about muffling an at-times brutally frank coach and waiting, waiting, waiting for this review committee to come up with something by April 30.
Being at CU means never having to say you're decisive. The suits that finally stepped forward and took action against Barnett used a velvet hammer when a machete was necessary. One reason: Byyny and Hoffman have to be looking over their own shoulders. They're Barnett's bosses and stink like this travels uphill.
"I know many regents that were unaware of this move as late as an hour before the press conference," Martin said.
You'd like to ask who is in charge but you don't know who to ask. The school will now kick back and take 48 hours to name an interim coach. Logic dictates that Barnett's temp from his staff should have been picked, briefed and brought to the Wednesday press conference. But that would have required proactive thinking.
"We have been making very careful deliberations," Hoffman said. " ... despite being pressured to make decisions much more quickly."
There's a big difference between careful decisions and thoughtful decisions. Athletic director Richard Tharp was conspicuous by his absence at the presser. Is he next? The review committee is still arguing about its makeup. One member has ties to former CU coach Bill McCartney's controversial Promise Keepers organization but refuses to a) see the conflict of interest; or b) remove himself.
Who's in charge? Once again, it looks like King Football. The school's reaction has gone from indignation to cooperation to confusion. The school was never aware, Hoffman said, of that September 2001 police report until the past few days.
That probably further complicates the issue of what to do with Barnett. He would be gone, fired, kaput at a majority of schools by now. But CU's legal problems might only have begun.
Barnett's contract reportedly states that unless he is fired for "just cause," the school owes him a $3 million buyout. The just cause clause is ambiguous and might be the biggest reason Barnett is still drawing a salary.
The school can't afford to fire him. And if it does, some smart lawyer for one of the civil-suit plaintiffs might take that to mean an admission of guilt by the school.
That would be surprising since no one at CU has taken the blame yet.