FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4) – Colorado State University elected to restart fall sports, including football, even as the athletic department navigates COVID-19 and an investigation in to racism among staff. In a written statement issued to CBS4’s Dillon Thomas, CSU confirmed Athletic Director Joe Parker felt athletics were okay to return to workouts even as the independent investigation in to the athletics department continues.
CSU voluntarily shut down the football program at the end of August after concerns of racial insensitivities were made public. That came just days after several football players tested positive for COVID-19 coronavirus.
The university hired a third-party law firm to conduct an investigation in to the accusations, which were made against CSU coaches and members of the athletic department management. However, last week the university announced they will return to play, and confirmed their first football game would take place by the end of the October.
“Whenever any organization is under investigation, it is surprising when they just go back to business as usual,” said Ethan Bird, a senior at CSU. “The student body should deserve to know what is happening there before they go back as if nothing ever happened.”
Several CSU students told CBS4 they were shocked to hear that sports would return before the investigation was completed.
A spokesperson for CSU said they thought the investigation would be completed by the end of September. In a written statement, the university said:
“In early August, Director of Athletics Joe Parker made the decision to pause football activities as the investigation launched, a decision supported by President McConnell. In consultation with CSU’s Pandemic Preparedness Team (PPT) and university leadership, on Sept. 16 Parker made the decision to increase activities for all CSU sports programs as the NCAA Division 1 Council made decisions related to various sports seasons nationwide, and with the knowledge that the Mountain West was contemplating resuming fall football.
Understanding the investigation was on-going, all student athletes were given the opportunity to opt-in and were told that an opt-out decision would not impact their financial aid or scholarship. After 97% of all student-athletes made the decision to opt-in, again in consultation with university leadership and the PPT, we resumed or increased activity in all athletic programs. Athletics staff also were informed of university resources to address any concerns about the return to team activity and opportunities to make alternative work arrangements.
Last week, based on the decision by the Mountain West Board of Directors to resume football in October, and also understanding that CSU would receive an investigation report soon, Parker made the decision – again in consultation with university leadership and the PPT – to resume football practice to allow students to prepare for their first game next month.
The university remains 100% committed to addressing all findings of the investigation after it is completed. We will make the full report available to the public as soon as possible and, after we have the opportunity to review the report, we will determine what remedial actions we will pursue in response.”
While the university said they felt it was proper to move forward with athletics without the results from the investigation, some students said they disagreed.
“This is the team, and school, you want to root for. But, when you start hearing about all these things going on, it made me start to really think. Is this real? Is this true?” said Litos Castro, a senior at CSU. “They’re more concerned about getting sports back so they can make money rather than solving real problems, that is how I see it.”
Bird said he knew some of the athletes, and wasn’t shocked to see they were wanting to return to the competition. However, he said he felt the university was using the opt-ins as a way to also prioritize the business end of athletics.
“We can wait to see sports,” Castro said. “I think they should hold out.”