(Host) As the college football season begins, commentator Brian Porto reminds us of the high price that some colleges pay for their successful sports programs.
(Porto) At this time of year, I used to look forward to the start of the college football season. Recently, events at the University of Colorado have reminded me why I no longer look forward to college football.
Three women students at the Boulder campus have stated in sworn testimony that Colorado football players and recruits raped them at an off-campus party in December 2001. This testimony is part of civil lawsuits that the women have filed against the university. The district attorney has not prosecuted any of the athletes because of the conflicting accounts provided by witnesses at the party. Some said that consensual group sex occurred, others corroborated the rape allegations, and all agreed that an alcoholic haze impaired their memories of what transpired.
The university’s response has been as unpalatable as the details of the party. An investigation revealed that the athletic director was heard more than once saying that coaches had to maintain a facade of “plausible deniability” about the behavior of recruits and the varsity players who host them during campus visits. A “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy prevailed, enabling athletic administrators to claim with straight faces that no problem existed. The investigation also revealed that the head football coach had told one alleged victim that if she pressed criminal charges, he would back his player 100 percent.
Despite these revelations, neither the athletic director nor the football coach was fired. Indeed, after receiving the investigative commission’s final report, the vice-chair of the university’s Board of Regents proclaimed both men “good leaders” and said, “It’s time to get behind them.” He also stated that nobody had suffered more from the scandal than the parents of Colorado football players.
What accounts for this ludicrous response to possible violence against women and the use of sex and alcohol as athletic recruitment tools? The answer is colleges’ use of sports, primarily football and men’s basketball, to raise revenue and build their “brand names.” As long as this practice continues, colleges will admit athletes regardless of whether they are legitimate students or good citizens, will employ athletic directors and coaches who can field winning teams regardless of whether they can lead by example, and will stack their governing boards with apologists for athletic excess.
If there is a silver lining in this cloud for me, it is that colleges in this region have largely resisted the temptation to raise their revenues and their profiles through athletic prominence. They have decided, wisely, to forgo the short-term benefits of that prominence in order to avoid long-term damage to their institutional missions and images, which damage Colorado will surely suffer.
I plan to reward the wisdom of our area colleges this autumn by attending a football game at Dartmouth or Middlebury or Norwich. Perhaps the experience will enable me to look forward to the college football season at this time next year.
This is Brian Porto of Windsor.
Brian Porto is an attorney and a free lance writer.