Katie Hnida, the first woman to score points in a major college football game, broke more than two years of silence and told Sports Illustrated magazine this week that she had been raped when she was a member of the University of Colorado team.
Her statement has set off a firestorm of reaction and at press time the Colorado football coach has been placed on leave and two additional women have come forward, asserting that they too have been raped.
Hnida transferred from Colorado University in 2001, the year she has said she was raped by a team member while watching TV at his house. Hnida also told Sports Illustrated that she was sexually assaulted throughout the time she was on the team’s player list. She added that male players groped her crotch, grabbed inside her shirt, rubbed themselves against her and one threw footballs at her head.
The only woman to have played on the Colorado team, Hnida, now 22, gained an honorable mention as an all-county kicker at Littleton Chatfield High. She was an honor-roll student as well as her high school’s home-coming queen. She told Sports Illustrated that “football is what makes me breathe.”
Now playing for the University of New Mexico, Hnida was recognized in September as the first woman to score points in her division. She kicked two extra points in the 72-8 victory over Texas State-San Marcos.
Hnida spoke out about her rape in this week’s Sports Illustrated article in reaction to the spreading scandal over how the University of Colorado conducted its football recruiting and managed the conduct of its football players. The university, based in Boulder, is being investigated for using sex parties to recruit players and arranging for escort services for the players.
Three women have sued the university, claiming they were gang-raped at a party in December 2001. Hnida has not launched a lawsuit against the university or pressed charges against her teammates, but she says she wants to see changes made in the program. “I realized that until I tell my story, I can never heal,” she told Sports Illustrated.
While the media spotlight has focused on the alleged sexual assaults and other sexual misconduct by football players at the University of Colorado, little has been reported about what steps the university is taking on behalf of the women making the claims or the other women on campus.
Six women have made allegations that they were raped by athletes on the university’s football team, The Colorado Buffs. The University of Colorado has earned the dubious title of being the No. 1 party school and The New York Times described a “carnival” atmosphere on campus.
Coach Gary Barnett was forced to take paid leave Thursday after making disparaging remarks regarding the athletic ability of walk-on place kicker Hnida.
“Katie was a girl,” he said during a press conference in response to Hnida’s revelations. “Not only was she a girl, she was terrible. There was no other way to say it. She could not kick the ball through the uprights.”
But the coach stated on CNN’s Larry King Live on Thursday that he expected to be reinstated after he proves that the football program is not hostile to women.
The Denver Post has reported that the university’s football program hosted weekend-long “sex parties” to entice recruits. One woman has alleged being raped at one of the recruiting weekends seven years ago. Two other women have reported being raped at a recruiting weekend in 2001.
Boulder’s District Attorney Mary Keenan has been conducting an investigation since September and has said that she believes the university has not taken her call for change seriously, the Denver Post reported last month.
“They decided, after discussing the history, that they would not change anything because they could not afford to lose the competitive edge against universities such as Oklahoma (and) Nebraska,” Keenan said in her deposition taken as part of a female student’s lawsuit against the university.
The National Organization for Women has called for the full dismissal of both Barnett and Richard Tharp, the university’s athletic director, as well as for the appointment of sexual assault prevention experts to investigate the recruiting scandals and allegations of sexual harassment and rape.