[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Languages
Last Updated: Friday, 20 February, 2004, 23:47 GMT
Rape scandal rocks US college football
By Kevin Anderson
BBC News Online, Washington

A seventh woman has come forward alleging that she was raped by players or recruits of the University of Colorado football team since 1997.

It comes in the wake of a lawsuit by three women against the university.

Former team member Katie Hnida
Katie Hnida has accused one of her former team mates of rape
The women allege they were raped during a 2001 party staged to attract promising players to the team.

The university has suspended football coach Gary Barnett.

Several former players have come to his defence, saying he runs a disciplined programme.

The controversy is nothing new for the University of Colorado or college football in general where sex, drugs and alcohol are often used to recruit promising young players.

'Nightmare'

The scandal at Colorado has been brewing for some time, but the story gained national attention when a former female member of the team alleged that she was groped during team huddles and raped by a team mate.

Katie Hnida is a rarity in the mostly male world of American football.

Growing up outside Denver in Colorado, it was her dream to play for University of Colorado Buffalo football team.

A standout player in high school, she got her chance but quickly was made to feel unwelcome.

TIMELINE OF THE SCANDAL
Summer 2000: Katie Hnida is allegedly raped.
7 December, 2001: Woman claims she was raped at a party attended by football players and recruits.
9 December, 2002: Woman files a lawsuit claiming she was raped by football players and recruits.
10 December, 2003: Second woman sues Colorado, alleging she was raped by football players.
14 January, 2004: Former Colorado soccer player files suit over alleged rape.
10 February, 2004: Adult entertainment company says Colorado football players hired strippers.
19 February, 2004: Police say they are investigating 2002 rape allegation.
Players frequently groped her and exposed themselves to her at least five times during the season, she told Sports Illustrated magazine.

The rape occurred in 2000 at the house of a team mate. "I tried to push him off me, but he outweighed me by 100 pounds," she said.

She did not raise the issues with the Coach Barnett "because I was terrified," adding, "He didn't want me around in the first place. I thought for sure he'd kick me off [the team]."

She chose to come forward now because the allegations of other women "sent me back into that nightmare."

Ms Hnida's is one of seven allegations of rape against University of Colorado football recruits or players.

The most recent allegation stems from an incident outside a bar in 2002.

"This is a particularly brutal case," said Boulder Colorado Police Chief Mark Beckner.

The woman alleges that a University of Colorado football player sodomised her.

Embattled coach

Colorado Coach Gary Barnett was placed on paid leave after he criticised Ms Hnida, a kicker, in the wake of her allegations.

Colorado football coach Gary Barnett
Barnett has been put on paid leave after criticising Hnida
When trying to explain why players had not accepted her as a member of the team, he said, "Katie was not only a girl, she was terrible, OK? There's no other way to say it."

University officials said the comments were insensitive in light of the seriousness of the allegations.

In an interview with CNN's Larry King, Mr Barnett said he expects to be reinstated, saying that he had reformed the Colorado programme and instituted a player code of conduct.

The university has launched an investigation into the mounting list of allegations including charges that the football programme hired "escort services" and strippers to attract recruits.

University of Colorado President Betsy Hoffman said the coach could be reinstated if he proves the football programme is not hostile to women.

This is not the first time that the university's football programme has come under scrutiny.

Between 1986 and 1989, some two dozen Colorado football players were arrested under coach Bill McCartney.

His successor, Rich Neuheisel, saw more than 50 rules violations in the four years he served as coach.

But this time, the University of Colorado is facing pressure to reform.

Colorado Governor Bill Owens has told the university to act to ensure the safety of women on campus or the state will.

In a letter to the university president, he wrote: "Women are not recruiting tools."




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Clive Myrie
"To date seven sexual assaults have been reported"



RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific