University of Colorado kicks off PR plans in sexual assault case

BOULDER, CO: After allegations arose suggesting that the University of Colorado (CU) football program uses sex to recruit new players, the school stayed relatively quiet, relying primarily on prewritten statements. But as the story began to capture more media attention - and the university more criticism - CU this week began aggressive efforts to tell its side of the story.

BOULDER, CO: After allegations arose suggesting that the University of Colorado (CU) football program uses sex to recruit new players, the school stayed relatively quiet, relying primarily on prewritten statements. But as the story began to capture more media attention - and the university more criticism - CU this week began aggressive efforts to tell its side of the story.

The allegations stem from a federal civil lawsuit filed by three female former students who claim they were raped during or after a December 7, 2001 off-campus party attended by CU players and recruits. "The president, [Elizabeth Hoffman], did not want to see this case tried in the press," said Bob Nero, CU's assistant VP of institutional relations in an interview with PRWeek. "But then everything changed. As it just got much greater media currency, we all realized - and the president realized - that we were going to have to come in." Nero added that one of the major difficulties, despite CU having a crisis plan in place, is the presence of litigation. "The problem with litigation is that there are things you just can't say in print. It makes it doubly difficult," he said. Hoffman made herself available for TV interviews on Monday of this week, and the following day CU football coach Gary Barnett appeared as a guest on local sports radio station KKFN-AM 950 for about 80 minutes. "Fire me, fire everybody, if we've done any of this stuff," Barnett said during the interview. "If any one of our own coaches was ever involved in that, I would fire him right now, in a heartbeat." The school contends that any sex that occurred at the party was not a deliberate tool used to recruit football players. Nevertheless, CU is now forming an independent investigative panel, and Hoffman has begun to seek advice from various victims' rights groups, as well as from former US Senate majority leader George Mitchell (D-ME) and NCAA president Myles Brand, the Denver Post reported today. As for further PR plans, Nero said, "One of the first things is to put this investigative panel in place." He also said that Hoffman has participated in daily media interviews, and that "if things heat up, we're prepared to move into daily briefings. When a case looks like it's going to be tried in the media, even if you don't want it tried in the media, you've got to deal with that." CU regents are also planning to answer questions from the public at a meeting this Friday.

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