University regent Jim Martin has been outspoken in calling for the school to deal with the scandal openly and objectively. "It's an emotionally charged issue," Martin says. "I told Gary Barnett recently that I thought he was a man of integrity. He's facing a serious problem for the program and for the whole university. But you can't deny it, and you can't ignore it."
Though it's too early to know how the lawsuits and investigations will turn out—Keenan has said she'll reopen the criminal probe into the 2001 case in light of the recently released depositions—clearly the university's reputation is bruised. In a Feb. 8 opinion piece in the Daily Camera, physics professor Carl Wieman, a Nobel laureate on the faculty, described the university as "an academic appendage to the football program." Says Tharp, "I know that no matter what the resolution of this, it won't matter. The stain on the institution and the athletic department will stay out there. I know that 10 years from now somebody is going to say to me, 'Oh, the University of Colorado, isn't that where they had that sex recruiting thing going on?' "
A bigger question may be, Is Colorado alone? "Even if this case is thrown out of court, it should serve as a wake-up call," says Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione. "We tend to focus on a symptom instead of stepping back and addressing the entire disease, although I hate to use that word. Instead of focusing on one issue here or there, we need to step back and look at the culture that exists on our campuses."
NCAA president Myles Brand is convening a task force to reexamine rules regarding recruiting visits, a move that will almost certainly result in several more pages in that already hefty NCAA manual. As for Colorado, Barnett has now added strippers to his handbook's list of forbidden entertainment. "We have a 124-page handbook," he says, "and next year it will be 134 pages."
No doubt other coaches will follow suit, typing up admonitions and reshaping policy. But as Colorado has shown, policy and practice can be two very different things.