Broomfield, Colo. An advocate for victims of sexual assault and the president of a striptease company each told a University of Colorado investigative panel Monday that sex was used as an enticement to lure blue-chip football recruits.
Kathy Redmond, founder of the National Coalition Against Violent Athletes, said sexual assault was a common occurrence at parties involving CU recruits because a "rape culture" in the school's athletics departments taught them a sense of entitlement regarding women.
Steve Lower, president of Hardbodies Entertainment of Denver, said CU players hired strippers for recruits in an unspoken sort of competition against other football programs across the country that do the same thing.
"They want to outdo other universities," he said.
The panel, appointed by the Board of Regents, is investigating allegations that sex and alcohol are used to entice football recruits to the Boulder campus. At least eight women since 1997 have accused football athletes of rape, though no charges have been filed. The state attorney general is heading a separate investigation to see whether criminal charges are warranted.
Redmond said CU athletes were taught that coaches would handle any problems and that police would go to coaches if players were involved in crimes. She said player training on sexual-assault issues was deficient.
"Players are taught that women are objects, commodities, and that if you come to this school, you get women, you get sex," said Redmond, who received a $50,000 settlement from the University of Nebraska after she accused a football player of raping her in 1991. The player never was charged.
Lower, who caused a stir in February when he said his company provided strippers to schools across the country, said his dancers had been hired by CU athletes for years.
The university never paid for the one or two times a year he sent strippers to parties involving football recruits, he said.
"Whether the coaching staff turns their back on it or they don't, they honestly don't have anything to do with these parties," he said.
Redmond, however, said CU leaders should be replaced because they had been ignoring sexual assault issues involving athletes for years. She said there likely were more women who had been assaulted by CU athletes who had been afraid to come forward because of the power wielded by the athletics department.
Football coach Gary Barnett, who shook his head at times while Redmond spoke, said afterward he didn't want to respond to specific allegations. Barnett, who will address the panel Tuesday, was suspended until April 30 for comments he made about two of the alleged rape cases, including that of a former player who said she was raped by a Colorado teammate in 2000.
Redmond compared the situation at Colorado to that of the Air Force Academy, where dozens of women have reported being assaulted, and some said they were ignored or ostracized when they came forward. The scandal led to the ouster of top leaders at the academy and sweeping policy changes.
"It's obvious (that CU leaders) had been very lax up until the media hit and there were lawsuits involved," Redmond said. "But now foxes are guarding the hen house, and victims fear that."