University of Colorado Reaches $2.85 Million Settlement on Historic Title IX Lawsuit
By Gerri Elder
Nearly five and a half years after it hogged sports headlines across the country, the University of Colorado settled the notorious lawsuit filed against them by two former students over alleged sexual assault by football players.
The lawsuit, which was filed under the Title IX federal discrimination law, was brought by Lisa Simpson and Anne Gilmore, alleging that they were both raped at a party by multiple football recruits.
On December 7, 2001, Simpson held a drinking party at her apartment, to which she invited a few of the players from the University of Colorado football team. After she retired for the night, drunk, Simpson claimed that she woke up to find two men unclothing and assaulting her. In the suit, Gilmore also claimed that she was assaulted that night.
Four Colorado football players - Marques Harris (now with the NFL's San Diego Chargers), Corey Alexander, Allen Mackey and Clyde Surrell - were charged with providing alcohol to minors at the party.
However, the two women did not file sexual assault charges. Rather, a year after the incident, Simpson sued the university under Title IX, the federal law that prohibits gender harassment and discrimination against women in education programs.
Instead of filing criminal charges, Simpson chose instead to file the lawsuit claiming that school officials failed to adequately address a previous sexual assault claim involving its football recruiting program. Gilmore followed with a lawsuit of her own another year later, in December 2003.
That discrimination case involved treatment of a placekicker for the CU football Buffaloes named Katie Hnida. Former head coach Gary Barnett notoriously called out Hnida in front of the media after she alleged that she was raped by a teammate in 1999: "She was awful, OK. Katie was a girl, and not only was she a girl, she was terrible. And there is no other way to say it. She couldn't kick the ball through the uprights."
As a result of the lawsuit filed by Simpson and Gilmore, 17 changes were made to the school's athletic program while 10 new rules were added to its recruiting practices. The negative publicity also led to the eventual resignations of former Athletic Director Dick Tharp, CU President Betsy Hoffman, and Boulder campus Chancellor Richard Byyny.
Yet the lawsuits were dismissed by U.S. District Judge Robert Blackburn in March 2005.
The lawyers for Simpson and Gilmore filed an appeal, and a panel of judges reinstated the lawsuit, based on studies of the school's lack of supervision of football recruits and their questionable policies regarding behavior while on campus.
This past week, the University of Colorado chose to settle the lawsuit with the two women, agreeing on a total of $2.85 million to resolve the case. Of that amount, Simpson will receive $2.5 million and Gilmore $350,000.
Following the settlement last week, former coach Barnett described the lawsuit as "holding CU hostage" and expressed his disdain that the school and its athletic department would never get their day in court.
Simpson's lawyer, Baine Kerr, was quoted as saying that Barnett's comments were hardly surprising, considering his history.
Simpson, who now speaks on women's rights and sexual assault awareness, expressed her satisfaction with the settlement and encouraged "the university to reach out to all of the other women who have bravely come forward."