Football coach Steve Addazio and CSU athletics were largely absolved by an independent investigation of published accusations of wrongdoing, the university announced.
An eight-week investigation into the Rams’ athletic department by the legal team of Husch Blackwell determined that alleged COVID-19 protocol violations were inconclusive, inconsistent or a result of miscommunication. The law firm found similar inconsistencies when it came to charges of racist-and-abusive language. Husch Blackwell noted that while Addazio, the Rams’ first-year coach, and his staff have made missteps, some of the concerns stemmed from conduct by former football coach Mike Bobo and assistant coaches who are no longer a part of the program.
Addazio and athletic director Joe Parker declined to comment Thursday, through an athletic department spokesman, deferring to a previous statement by university president Joyce McConnell. She wrote in an open letter released late Wednesday that the university will “work quickly” to implement the recommendations in the report and “prioritize these issues” going forward.
The investigation corroborated allegations published by the Fort Collins Coloradoan that Addazio used forceful-and-firm language with a current Rams football player during a discussion. But, as with some of the incidents that became public over the summer, witnesses also disputed versions of published reports. There were similar contradictions by witnesses in terms of how the current coaching staff handled a planned players’ march in response to a Black CSU football player, later identified by Sports lllustrated as offensive lineman Barry Wesley, being held at gunpoint in June while working at an off-campus job in Loveland.
Published accusations of Addazio or his staff willfully disregarding or downplaying coronavirus protocols were refuted by some witnesses, the investigation determined. Charges of intimidation and lack of playing time by Addazio and his staff for reporting COVID symptoms were also deemed by investigators to be disputed by witnesses or open to interpretation.
More tellingly, investigators made no substantive suggestions for the university with regards to the football program and COVID-19 going forward.
There were, however, suggestions made in regards to improving the culture with regards to race relations within the department. The firm proposed that student-athletes be able to report their concerns to someone outside of the athletic department and outside Parker’s jurisdiction; continued and supplemented diversity and inclusion training, university-wide; and amplification of the university’s policy against retaliation within the athletic department.
McConnell had announced the hiring of the Kansas City firm on Aug. 6. A university official told The Post that the cost of the investigation would be released to the public soon.
The firm charged the University of Iowa athletics earlier this year as much as $675 per hour in attorney rates, according to the Cedar Rapids Gazette. Iowa State University paid the firm $120,325 for its services on three athletic department cases, the Iowa State Daily reported in 2018.