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Archive for Sunday, February 22, 2004

Commentary: CU has no choice: Barnett must go

February 22, 2004

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— He once vowed in an e-mail to his Northwestern players to take "the Purple back to Pasadena," then bolted a few days later for what was supposed to be a better job at Colorado. Apparently, he did this with the idea of bringing "the Bawdy back to Boulder."

There have been questions of character with Gary Barnett before. E-mailing his players with the news he was staying at Northwestern and then leaving days later is not what you would call honorable. Breaking an unwritten rule by taking Northwestern recruits with him to Colorado added another layer of slime.

But that was child's play to what has been going on at Colorado. There are allegations of rape and sexual assault against some of his players and recruits, in addition to reports of women who take their clothes off for a living being used as recruiting tools. We're learning that the ladder to success in college football sometimes looks more like a stripper's pole.

So far, there have been six allegations of sexual assault at Colorado since Barnett arrived in 1999. Even by the sordid standards of big-time athletics, it's a shocking number.

The Gary Barnett we knew in Chicago was as slick as an oil spill and prone to throwing himself at every job opening. But few people could have imagined a program he ran sinking to these depths.

Before us stands the former Our Gary, and you can't surf through cable channels these days without seeing clips of Barnett talking from his attorney's office on "Larry King Live."

Trust us, it's never a good sign when somebody appears on TV with a wall of law books behind him. Most of the other reports have been variations on the theme "Is College Football Out of Control?"

All of it means Barnett is as gone as the wind and should be.

He's under administrative leave for the crime of being stupid. He insisted that Katie Hnida, a former Colorado kicker who says she was raped by a teammate, never belonged in the program. He might as well have said, "She was asking for it by lacking range on her field-goal attempts."

Barnett reportedly had told a woman another player allegedly had sexually assaulted that he would stand by the athlete 100 percent if she pursued charges. What a team player.

But those are issues of sensitivity and don't answer the question of whether Barnett knew what was going on in his program. Three explanations are possible, and each of them should lead to his firing:

One, he didn't know about the problems. It's a coach's job to know these things, specifically incidents that occur while high school players are visiting campus on recruiting trips.

Two, he didn't want to know.

Three, the worst of the sins, he knew and looked the other way.

Understand one other thing: College football is an arms race. If other programs have state-of-the-art weight rooms, then a coach believes he needs one to stay competitive.

If other programs are making sure their high school players are having a good time on official campus visits, then a coach doesn't want to be left behind in the Taste of College experience.

Put that all together, and it's hard to believe Barnett didn't know what was going on in his program -- not necessarily all the rape charges, but at least the atmosphere of reckless abandon.

See you later, Gary. You'll find work again because this stuff happens at most big programs. What a proud business.

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