FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4) – Colorado State University released the findings of an independent investigation into allegations of racism and COVID-19 safety violations in the athletic department. The university retained Husch Blackwell LLP to conduct the investigation.
The firm interviewed 115 people, including 49 student-athletes and 63 university employees. The investigation followed reporting by the Coloradoan alleging CSU football coaches told players to not report COVID-19 symptoms and threatened players with reduced playing time should they quarantine.
CSU voluntarily shut down the football program at the end of August after the allegations were made public. Days earlier, several CSU football players tested positive for COVID-19.
The investigation found, “a substantial majority” of student-athletes and staff reported no concerns with CSU’s COVID-19 protocols.
“Student-athletes from multiple sports reported feeling safe, that their coaches and teammates were taking the protocols seriously, and that staff were doing a good job implementing the protocols,” the report stated.
According to the investigation, students and staff who expressed concerns about the COVID-19 protocols identified issues with communication, testing protocols, quarantine procedures and consistency between teams.
When asked about allegations of racial insensitivity and abusive behavior, most student-athletes who participated in the investigation disputed the claims. Some athletes expressed concerns about specific incidents involving racial insensitivity in three sports: women’s basketball, track and field, and football.
The investigation did find that “numerous” individuals recounted racial insensitivity involving former coaches. According to those interviews, the behavior went unaddressed by athletic department leadership.
Before the investigation was complete, the university made the decision to resume voluntary football workouts on Aug. 31. Athletic Director Joe Parker made the decision to increase activities for all CSU sports programs on Sept. 16.
In a written statement to CBS4, the university said in part:
“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.”
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. The university said 97% of student athletes made the decision to opt-in.