Sordid Culture in College Sports? ; Alleged Incidents of Sexual Misconduct at Colorado and Elsewhere Point to Possible Crisis in College Athletics

Article excerpt

Angela Cox attends the University of Colorado. But her lament could apply to just about any institution of higher learning with big-time sports programs. "This school is about classes and learning. It shouldn't be about football," says Ms. Cox, a junior majoring in kinesiology.

Unfortunately, allegations of sordid behavior involving players for Colorado's Division I football program, as well as some other schools nationwide, are raising anew an old question: Where should victory of athletics rank in a list of university priorities?

This time the problem is not cash under the table, but sex. At Colorado, adult entertainment companies have confirmed that football players hired strippers for recruiting parties. The only woman to have ever played for the University of Colorado team - as a kicker - has accused a former teammate of rape.

Earlier this month, St. John's University suspended five basketball players for breaking curfew to visit a strip club while on the road for a game. The University of Minnesota is looking into allegations that football recruits visited bars and strip clubs last year.

At the University of Colorado's campus, students say they are repulsed - but not surprised - by their scandal.

"In some senses, it is something that is going on at every college campus," says Steve Brancucci, a junior accounting major who sports long sideburns, a rumpled oxford shirt, and baggy jeans as he walks to class. "It just came out here, but I don't think it is unique to CU."

School officials are scrambling to respond to a growing number of rape allegations swirling around the team, creating a public relations nightmare and threatening to indelibly stain the fabric of Colorado's most prestigious public university.

CU football coach Gary Barnett was suspended this week. Athletic Director Richard Tharpe and CU President Elizabeth Hoffman also face uncertain futures.

"Everyone's job is at risk at any point in time," Ms. Hoffman said earlier this week. "If we get any evidence from our own internal investigation, the police, or anyone else, we will take action."

In addition, a criminal investigation into the matter could lead to sexual assault charges against current and former members of the football squad.

Accusations that CU used sex and alcohol - including prostitutes, sex parties, and visits to strip clubs - to recruit high school football players prompted the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to set up a task force to reexamine their recruiting rules. …