Inquiry probes 'sex and booze for sports stars'

February 27, 2004

The stakes are so high in US university sports that some schools have been caught providing star recruits with cash, flashy clothes and even cars. Now sex and alcohol might be added to the list.

The University of Colorado is investigating whether football recruits aged 17 and 18 were provided with prostitutes and alcohol.

A former recruiting coordinator has been charged with using his university-issued mobile phone to hire prostitutes, while an adult entertainment company has said that it was hired to provide strippers for star football prospects. Three women have gone public with charges that they were raped by players or recruits during a welcome party in 2001.

And at St John's University in New York, six basketball players went to a strip club after a game and left with a 38-year-old woman, who they say agreed to have sex with them for money. When they failed to pay, she claimed to be a married flight attendant and went to the authorities, accusing the players of rape.

But one student recorded the encounter on his mobile phone. The woman has been charged with filing a false police report.

While none of the players was arrested, one was expelled, one was suspended, one withdrew and two were thrown off the team. The incident has embarrassed the Jesuit university, whose president has said that if he cannot clean up the school's famous men's basketball team, he will shut it down.

Rice University, in Houston, and the University of Houston are also investigating charges that strippers were hired for athletic recruits.

The University of Colorado's board of regents has appointed a commission to investigate the allegations. The football team's head coach has been placed on administrative leave for making inappropriate comments in response to a rape allegation.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association, which oversees all US university athletics, has formed a task force to look into illegal recruiting practices.

"That should solve everything," one sports columnist wrote ironically. "A task force - when it convenes, who's bringing the booze and strippers?"

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