DENVER — University of Colorado President Elizabeth Hoffman
announced Monday that she is resigning amid a football recruiting
scandal and a national controversy over an activist professor who
compared victims of the Sept. 11 attacks to a notorious Nazi.
Hoffman, who has been president for five years, told the Board
of Regents in a letter that her resignation is effective June 30 or
whenever the board names a successor.
“It appears to me it is in the university’s best interest that
I remove the issue of my future from the debate so that nothing
inhibits CU’s ability to successfully create the bright future it
so deserves,” Hoffman wrote.
An independent commission reported last year that Colorado
players used sex, alcohol and marijuana as recruiting tools.
And in February, administrators took the first steps toward a
possible dismissal of professor Ward Churchill, who likened World
Trade Center victims to Nazi Adolph Eichmann.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Hoffman said her
decision to resign would give her time to help the university
resolve the controversies.
“I’ve taken my future off the table so to some extent I can
focus my attention on issues that face the university and not on my
personal future,” she said.
She cited the upcoming trial of a civil lawsuit that stemmed
from the football recruiting scandal.
“Sometimes you need to say someone else perhaps needs to take
the next step and that’s what I’ve decided,” Hoffman said. “I
think it’s really important to focus my attention on what needs to
be done and not feel that I have to defend myself against
Board of Regents Chairman Jerry Rutledge said in a written
statement that Hoffman would be missed.
“However, it has become clear to many in the CU family that our
university — one of the most distinguished in the nation — has
suffered greatly from a series of controversies that seem to be
growing, not abating,” he said. “On Monday, President Hoffman
realized the future of CU is far more important than any single
At least nine women have said they were assaulted by Colorado
football players or recruits since 1997.
Just last week, a sealed grand jury report leaked to the media
said two female trainers alleged they were sexually assaulted by an
assistant coach and that a “slush fund” was created with money
from coach Gary Barnett’s football camp, according to a report
leaked to the media.
The grand jury, which finished meeting Aug. 19, handed up a
single indictment accusing a former football recruiting aide of
soliciting a prostitute for himself and misusing a school-issued
A parallel investigation by then-Attorney General Ken Salazar
into the alleged assaults resulted in no charges; prosecutors cited
concerns about evidence and the reluctance of the women to go
forward with the cases.
Hoffman said the school fully cooperated with the grand jury and
launched financial audits of Barnett’s football camp and the
university’s fund raising arm, even though both are independent
A review of Churchill’s speeches and writings is being conducted
to determine if the professor overstepped his boundaries of
academic freedom and whether that should be grounds for dismissal.
Hoffman said last week that Churchill would not be fired if the
review turns up only inflammatory comments, not misconduct. She
also said she feared a “new McCarthyism” that endangers academic
Churchill said Monday that Hoffman unfairly became the focus of
criticism and was pressured to leave.
“It’s both a tragedy and a travesty. I think the woman has,
under the circumstances that have been imposed by the political
realities of the state, done an absolutely amazing job under
extraordinary pressure,” he said. “She has been ... working to
defend the principle of academic integrity in the face of almost
stonewall opposition to the idea that quite a range of viewpoints
are deserving of articulation.”
The Denver Post, one of the state’s largest newspapers, said in
an editorial Friday that the university would benefit from new
leadership. Gov. Bill Owens has said CU’s finances and those of the
CU Foundation should be more open. Owens also has pushed for
Hoffman told the AP her decision was based solely on a belief
that announcing her resignation would help relieve some pressure on
“It was not prompted by the editorial, not prompted by pressure
from the governor,” she said. “To me it’s about principle, it’s
about taking a very strong stand and putting the university ahead
of myself or any other individual.”
The furor over Churchill erupted in January after he was invited
to speak at Hamilton College in upstate New York. Campus officials
discovered an essay and follow-up book in which he said the Sept.
11, 2001, attacks were a response to a history of American abuses
abroad, particularly against indigenous peoples.
Among other things, he said the people killed in the trade
center were “little Eichmanns,” a reference to the man who
organized Nazi plans to exterminate Jews. The college canceled
Churchill’s appearance, citing death threats and concerns about