Husch Blackwell releases findings on CSU athletics investigation

Ryan Loberger

Colorado State University President Joyce McConnell sent out an email Wednesday night detailing law firm Husch Blackwell’s findings in the athletic department’s investigation on racial bias allegations and claims that the CSU football team failed to protect student-athletes by not following COVID-19 protocols. 

“In my conversations with the Chancellor, we agreed that the findings of the investigation are positive and reassuring overall,” McConnell said in the email. “They also provide extremely helpful context and recommendations. We are confident that our current CSU Athletics staff will work with us to move forward as our football program resumes.”

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The investigation was commissioned on Aug. 6 following allegations that faculty in the athletics department interfered with COVID-19 testing and hushed players with symptoms. Expansion of the investigation followed when, on Aug. 8, The Coloradoan published an article saying that verbal abuse of Black players within the program had grown under the previous and current coaching staffs.

Athletic Director Joe Parker announced via email Aug. 7 that he advised McConnell to expand her investigation and would pause all football-related activities. 

The reports published by Husch Blackwell stated the firm interviewed 115 individuals, including 49 student-athletes, 63 employees and three other community members.”

After two months, the investigation has been completed.

Findings for each report:

On COVID-19 protocols:

“Most student-athletes who participated in the investigation reported feeling safe during team activities and believed that coaching and training staff made their best efforts to implement and enforce the University’s return-to-sport protocols,” the report said.

According to the email, the report also noted that many witnesses expressed concern over the parts of the protocols, but that they were “predominately related to communication, consistency or testing policies rather than intentional non-compliance with the protocols.”

“Most members of the football program believed head coach (Steve) Addazio and his coaching staff took the protocols seriously and did not threaten or pressure players to hide symptoms or participate while feeling unwell,” the report said.

On racial bias and verbal abuse:

According to the email, the report stated what while most students disputed harassment and racial inequity allegations within the team and athletic department, “numerous individuals recounted racial insensitivity involving former coaches in years past and expressed concern that their behavior went unaddressed by athletic department leadership at that time.”

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“In conclusion, we believe that perceptions of the racial climate on individual teams and within the athletic department have been shaped by recent national events and the resulting discourse around racial justice and equity,” the report said.

“Student-athletes and staff expressed their collective expectation that the athletic department will take meaningful steps to address and eliminate any conduct based on racial bias and stereotypes, or any systemic inequities, which may have been ignored or tolerated in the past,” the report said.

Editor’s Note: This article was updated with additional information Oct. 7 at 9:48 p.m.

Ryan Loberger can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @LobergerRyan.