The University of Colorado at Boulder (proud motto: "Fight, Win, Drink, Throw Up, Ski!") is so broke that it has cancelled some classes because it doesn't have enough professors. It's so broke that it is begging the state to approve gigantic tuition increases. It is so broke that it was only able to spend $280 on sombreros and $11,250 for hors d'oeuvres at football parties.
All in all, in football bowl games it has played in since 1995, CU has spent $432,159 on gifts for players and coaches. This includes $34,442 for 115 JVC camcorders given to the players before the 2002 Fiesta Bowl -- apparently so the Colorado players could record the images of the game from the loser's perspective.
During the same period, the university spent $293,857 on parties, receptions and entertainment at the bowl games, including the $280 on sombreros, which were, as I understand it, later turned over to the history department and used in the school's highly popular class, History 145: Big Mexican Hats Through the Ages.
Flinging business cards
All of these expenses by our state university were chronicled recently in a blockbuster series published by the Rocky Mountain News. I read the stories about the CU football program and its spending habits with great interest, in part because, just a day before they were published, CU head football coach Gary Barnett actually walked into the old church that is now the home of the Independent newspaper at 235 S. Nevada Ave. (We honor the 93-year-old spirit of the church every week when the staff assembles in furry earmuffs and prays to God that somebody brought coal for the 93-year-old furnace.)
Barnett strolled up the front steps and into the grand lobby of the old church, where he encountered Independent staff member Lori Green and demanded to speak with me. Sadly, Barnett had arrived after my regular weekday office hours (8-8:45 a.m.) and had to settle, according to Green, with taking a business card from his wallet and "flinging it" at her across the receptionist desk while barking, "Tell him to call me." Then he made Lori do 500 pushups and, apparently trying to get himself into the recruiting mode, gave her a case of beer and a hooker.
Second career victory
Later that day, Barnett left me a phone message saying he wanted to talk about "that story you wrote, the story that I'm sure you're proud of." The Dec. 9 column he referred to concerned a $10,000 check he wrote to Jerry Rutledge, who owns a fine downtown men's clothing store and also happens to be the chairman of the CU Board of Regents and thus gets to vote on important things such as Barnett's salary and contract. It's possible I suggested in that column that such a thing seemed, at least to morons like me, to be a conflict of interest.
But I never did get to speak to Barnett. Two days after his visit to the Independent he left for Texas, where on Dec. 29, his football team narrowly defeated the University of Texas-El Paso in a huge sporting event called the EV1.net Houston Bowl, partly because of CU's potent offense and partly because UTEP plays two-hand tag.
It was Barnett's second career victory in six bowl games, not that anyone's keeping track.
And now, in the wake of the Rocky Mountain News stories detailing the spending habits of Barnett and his football staff, well, I'm guessing he has more important things to worry about than idiotic columns in a weekly newspaper 100 miles from his kingdom.
Plenty of weenies
Plenty of weenies
For example, he might be asked by Gov. Bill Owens to explain the whole thing. Owens reacted to the Rocky stories by saying: "I believe people expect more of their public institutions when it comes to expenditures and accountability" and added, "one has to wonder if this money could not have been better spent serving the educational needs of the university and its students."
Then the governor collapsed into the $900,000 Peruvian yak-leather chair in his Capitol office.
But the real question here is this: What do you do after you've wolfed down $11,250 worth of cocktail weenies, as the CU administrators, football coaches, their spouses and other guests did at the 2002 Fiesta Bowl party? Well, according to the expense account, what you do is wash down the cocktail weenies (which is, by the way, also what the Oklahoma football team calls the CU players) with 141 bottles of beer ($625) and 84 bottles of wine ($2,688).
Then you stumble back to your hotel suite, collapse onto the bed and take a long siesta.
And hope you don't crush the sombrero.