FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4) – Colorado State University is pausing all football activities while it investigates allegations of racism and verbal abuse. In a statement Friday evening, CSU Director of Athletics Joe Parker said the allegations involve the university’s athletic administration and specifically named the football program.
Football practices, workouts and team meetings are paused indefinitely while the university investigates the claims. Parker did not elaborate on what prompted the investigation, but said it was brought to his attention on Friday.
“Colorado State University is committed to being an anti-racist university, and we will not tolerate any behavior or climate that goes against that core value,” said Parker. “Moreover, CSU Athletics is committed to the health and well-being of student-athletes above all other priorities, and this includes their mental health. We believe it is our responsibility to make sure that all student-athletes feel welcomed and valued as members of an inclusive athletics community.”
This is not the first time CSU has responded to allegations of abuse within its athletic department. In 2018, former basketball coach Larry Eustachy was fired for harassment and verbal abuse.
In December, Colorado State University hired Steve Addazio to replace Mike Bobo as the university’s football coach. Addazio becomes the 23rd Rams football coach in the school’s history.
Joe Parker said he asked CSU President Joyce McConnell to expand an independent investigation she announced on Tuesday to include a comprehensive review of the athletic department and football program, including the allegations of racism and verbal abuse.
The initial investigation began following a story by the Coloradoan, detailing claims by football players and staff that the athletic administration was covering up the COVID-19 health threat.
“While we have been working hard towards playing football this fall, the holistic well-being of our student-athletes is our unequivocal top priority,” said Parker. “We must and will address these allegations before we focus on playing football.”
Several CSU football players took to Twitter Friday night after learning of the allegations:
All these allegations a lie man! Never heard it, seen it, or been around it! For the person or people who saying the lies come forward and leave dawg we wanna play football. 😒 https://t.co/hxHraHFW4h
— Keith Williams (@KLW77_) August 8, 2020
This is beyond me don’t ask me cause i got no clue 🤦🏾♂️ https://t.co/VTRxsdderR
— Dequan Jackson (@_Cydash_) August 8, 2020
Come on now🤦🏿 Ain’t nun dis true. All these allegations gotta STOP! https://t.co/YgtBkl574p
— tanner hollens (@HollensTanner) August 8, 2020
President McConnell sent the following email to students, faculty and staff Friday night:
Dear CSU Community,
I want to share with you some news that CSU Athletics Director Joe Parker recently announced: having learned just today of some extremely troubling allegations of racism and verbal abuse from CSU’s athletic administration in the football program, Athletics Director Parker has paused all CSU football-related activities indefinitely. He has also asked me to expand the independent investigation I announced on Tuesday to include a comprehensive review of our athletic department and football program specifically related to allegations of racism and verbal abuse.
I am profoundly disturbed to hear of these new allegations, and I have already expanded the scope of the investigation. Colorado State University is an avowedly anti-racist university and an avowedly anti-racist community. We will not tolerate a climate that makes any member of this university community feel unwelcome or not valued. On the contrary, we will expose it and put an end to it immediately.
In keeping with my commitment to transparency, I want to further share with all of you the information I shared with our CSU Athletics staff and all student athletes earlier this week. This information and these assurances hold true even in light of the expansion of the scope of the investigation.
As you know, when I learned of the allegations that came forward on Tuesday regarding how CSU Athletics is handling public health precautions surrounding COVID-19, I determined that an independent, outside investigation must be immediately conducted. That investigation commenced [Wednesday, August 5, 2020].
The Office of the General Counsel has retained an outside law firm, Husch Blackwell, to conduct the investigation. The attorneys conducting the investigation are experienced in conducting investigations related to colleges and universities, including athletics. They are based out of Kansas City, Missouri. The biographies of the two attorneys can be found here and here. [These same two attorneys just completed an investigation of the University of Iowa football program which found a climate experienced by Black football players as racist.] At the end of the investigation, a report will be made publicly available.
My expectation is that everyone will fully cooperate with the investigation. The investigators have already begun conducting interviews, and staff and students who have information that they feel is relevant to their inquiry should feel free to reach out to them. Any attempts to retaliate against, pressure, or intimidate individuals who participate in the investigation will not be tolerated. Should that occur, I urge anyone aware of such behavior to report that conduct to the investigators or to my office immediately.
I deeply regret that we are facing this situation on top of all the other challenges we are facing as we work together to prepare for the Fall 2020 semester at CSU. But I remain excited to welcome our students, returning and new, to campus in just a few weeks. I also remain confident that the resilience, compassion, and creativity that defines CSU will sustain us and that we will come through this difficult period stronger than ever. Thank you all for all that you do every day for CSU, for our students, and for our world.