FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Colorado State University is making national headlines for all the wrong reasons right now.

On Tuesday, the Coloradoan released a report detailing concerning accusations regarding the behavior of some of the football coaches on staff. According to Miles Blumhardt, players and members of the athletic department staff say coaches have told players not to report COVID-19 symptoms and have threatened players with reduced playing time.

One player, who was not not identified in the report, was quoted in the piece:

“I believe there is a cover-up going on at CSU. But they could only cover it up so long and now that we have so many cases across athletics, they can’t cover it up anymore. It’s not about the health and safety of the players but about just trying to make money off the players.”

In total, the report states that 10 individuals from inside the program have contacted the Coloradoan in response to CSU’s handling of COVID-19.

As a result of the report, CSU president Joyce McConnell announced to students on Tuesday night that she has launched an immediate investigation into the details of the situation. Here is a transcript of the email sent out to CSU students.

Dear CSU Community,

An article published today reports some extremely serious and deeply troubling allegations about how CSU Athletics is handling public health precautions surrounding COVID-19.  Quoting several student athletes and members of the Athletics staff, the story raises concerns about whether the health and well-being of our student athletes is truly the top priority of Colorado State University.

I tell you all now that nothing is more important to me or to CSU than the health and well-being of our students.  Nothing.  They are our purpose and our responsibility, each and every one of them, whatever sport they play or major they declare.

Effective immediately, I have launched an investigation into the concerns raised in the article.  This investigation will come out of my office.  It will move quickly, and I will transparently share the outcome with all of you.

Let me reiterate: the health and well-being of the CSU community is our top priority.  That is why since the COVID pandemic began we have adhered to Centers for Disease Control guidelines and to state and county directives, and why we work daily with the local Larimer County Health Department.  And that is why our institutional decisions during this time are led by the CSU Pandemic Preparedness Team and Public Health Office.  Their decisions are informed by CDC recommendations designed to protect public health.  They do not consult with non-public health units (e.g. research, sports, academics) in making those decisions.

When CSU Athletics experienced an outbreak of COVID cases amongst student athletes in July, the PPT and PHO shut down football, including all formal and informal practices, workouts, and team meetings.  The CSU Athletics staff was clearly informed of the scope and timing of the shut-down and of our expectation that they would comply, in the interest of our student-athletes health.

We take the concerns of our student athletes extremely seriously.  If we learn that there are any employees of CSU Athletics who do not share Colorado State University’s commitment to student health and well-being above all else, we will address the issue immediately.

Sincerely, Joyce

About an hour after McConnell’s email was sent out, Joe Parker (Athletic Director) and Steve Addazio (Football coach) released a statement through a CSU spokesperson.

Director of Athletics Joe Parker

“It was troubling to read today that any student-athlete is concerned about our department’s commitment to their health and safety. As we have reiterated daily with our staff and student-athletes, their health is our top priority. We believe strongly in our policies and procedures and have instituted those at the direction and guidance our University’s Pandemic Preparedness Team, and local, state, and federal officials. The report that some football student-athletes were instructed to withhold symptoms would run counter to repeated communications we have had with our staff and student-athletes.

I fully embrace President McConnell’s investigation into this matter, and if we learn anyone on our staff has not been fully supportive of our commitment to health and safety, this is unacceptable and will be dealt with swiftly.”

Head Football Coach Steve Addazio

“We have developed a comprehensive COVID-19 prevention plan in collaboration with the University’s Pandemic Preparedness Team which includes specific, strictly enforced processes and procedures to build and maintain a culture of safety, compliance and responsibility to all members of the football program and the community.

The health and welfare of our student-athletes on the Colorado State football team is our top priority, and I fully support President McConnell’s investigation into concerns about whether these protocols were properly followed by everyone involved with our program. We want every student-athlete to have confidence that we are taking every possible measure to ensure their safety, and we will continue working with the training staff, the athletic department and the University to evaluate and implement any additional steps necessary to live up to our high standards.”

We expect to learn more information about the situation in the coming days but a large amount of players and their family members have refuted the report from the Coloradoan.

Here are a few examples of tweets from players that have voiced support for the coaching staff:

Toby McBride

Trey McBride

Scott Patchan 

Ben Hickerson

Todd Centeio 

Thomas Pannunzio 

Cam Reddy 

Multiple sources that have reached out to DNVR Rams claim that Steve Addazio has been consistent with his message that players must emphasize proper safety protocols as well. However, one staff member from CSU Athletics was more critical of CSU Athletics as whole, referencing repeated systematic failure to look out for the best interests of student-athletes on campus.

The official investigation will hopefully confirm whether or not any changes must occur within the program. But it’s safe to say that this is not the type of headline CSU was hoping to make this summer.

Justin Michael
Author

Justin has been covering Colorado State athletics since 2015 & has been featured in multiple national outlets. Along with keeping up with the Mountain West, Justin loves the local teams and has been going to Broncos games since he was six years old. Follow Justin on Twitter - @JustinTMichael

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