Under coach Bill McCartney, Colorado football has taken off, but so has ugly criminal behavior among the Buffalo players
February 27, 1989

There are a few things a university of colorado campus policeman won't leave the office without: handcuffs, his copy of the Miranda warning and a University of Colorado football program.

"At the first home football game of every season, a couple of detectives drop by the stadium and pick up a few programs," says Tim DeLaria, a detective on the university force, which is a full-fledged police department. "Saves you time. Instead of having a victim go through the mug book, you just take out your program and say, 'Is he in here?' "

The way things have been going lately at Colorado, he usually is. Since February 1986 at least two dozen Buffalo players have been arrested, for everything from trespassing to serial rape. According to campus detective Paul Epp, of the players on the 1987 roster, 18 have been arrested and 65 have been "contacted" by police in connection with traffic tickets, drunken driving or noise violations, or for questioning about other incidents that the police believed they may have been involved in.

This February alone, five current players and one former player were either arrested or issued summonses, including freshman running back Marcus Reliford, who is out on $7,500 bail after being charged with sexual assault and burglary.

Meanwhile, Colorado's team, under coach Bill McCartney, has gone from woeful (seven wins in the three seasons before he arrived, in 1982) to bowlful (three bowl appearances in the last four seasons). Perhaps former Colorado split end Loy Alexander, the team's leading receiver in 1983, was a prophet when, after the Buffaloes finished 1-10 in '84, he declared that he was fed up with being surrounded by teammates with impeccable character and no talent. "We've got enough altar boys," he said. "We need some athletes."

Five years later, Colorado has plenty of athletes. Altar boys, however, are in short supply:

•This month, after a three-year investigation, Miles Kusayanagi, a second-string linebacker in 1984 and '85, was arrested and charged with raping one woman and the attempted rape of another. He is suspected of being the Duct-Tape Rapist, who terrorized Boulder by sexually assaulting eight women in 1986. Most of the victims reportedly had their eyes or mouth covered with silver duct tape before being raped. Kusayanagi is being held in lieu of $500,000 bail.

•Dan Ralph, a nosetackle in 1979 and '80, and Chris Symington, an offensive guard in '85 and '87, were charged in August of '86 with shaking down a Boulder restaurant owner for debts that the restaurateur owed to a third party. Ralph pleaded guilty to menacing and received a deferred sentence. Symington also pleaded guilty and was sentenced to community service. He was thrown off the team for '86 for drunken driving, but was reinstated in '87. He is now a graduate assistant with the Buffaloes.

•Fullback Anthony Weatherspoon pleaded guilty to second-degree criminal trespass after he and two other men broke into a dorm room in May 1986. Weather-spoon was sentenced to six months probation and community service, and suspended from the team for the '86 Bluebonnet Bowl. In April 1988, he was booted off the team for good after testing positive for drugs, according to the Boulder Daily Camera.

•After leaving Stanford upon being convicted of using a stolen credit card, Sam Sutherland transferred to Colorado in 1986 and became the Buffs' nickelback. Last May he received a six-month deferred sentence and agreed to undergo anger-control therapy after pleading no contest to a charge that he assaulted a former girlfriend; late last summer he was arrested for allegedly assaulting the roommate of a woman who is now his fiancèe. That charge was dropped when the victim withdrew her complaint. Sutherland was suspended for the 1988 season, but is expected to play next fall.

•Jo Jo Collins, a starting receiver last season, pleaded guilty to brawling in March 1987 after assaulting an Air Force Academy cadet and repeatedly stabbing a mattress in a fight over Collins's former girlfriend.

•Starting quarterback Sal Aunese, a junior, was suspended from 1988 spring practice and spent 12 nights in jail last summer after pleading guilty to breaking into a dormitory room while searching for a student who had taunted him from a third-floor window.

•Kanavis McGhee, Colorado's 6'5", 230-pound sophomore linebacker, and Eric Bieniemy, also a sophomore and the Buffaloes' leading rusher last season, were arrested in a bar fight in February 1988, after McGhee sent a 5'7", 158-pound bouncer, Roger Hogoboom, to the hospital with a fractured cheekbone and cuts that required plastic surgery. McGhee said he was angry that Bieniemy had been called a "little nigger" by a bar patron. Hogoboom was injured when he tried to separate the combatants. Both pleaded no contest—McGhee to a charge of second-degree assault, and Bieniemy to charges of disorderly conduct and fighting in public. They received deferred sentences and were ordered to perform community service. They were also subjected to unspecified disciplinary action by McCartney.

•Last July junior halfback J.J. Flannigan was arrested for threatening a passerby who had tried to intervene in an argument Flannigan was having with his girlfriend outside a Boulder movie theater. Flannigan allegedly
told the man, "Back off or I'll get my nine-millimeter and put you six foot under." The charges were dropped. Three months later Flannigan, who is black, was arrested again, this time for allegedly hitting a woman who, he said, had uttered a racial slur as Flannigan and the woman's companion were arguing. Flannigan claims the woman was choking him. He was suspended for a game and pleaded no contest to a charge of third-degree assault. He received a deferred sentence.

•Wide receiver Andy Massucco, a junior walk-on, was arrested a month ago on charges of first-degree sexual assault for allegedly raping a student in her dormitory. Police said the victim told friends that she wished Massucco had killed her, because then she "would not have to remember what happened." Massucco says all he did was kiss the woman good night and has responded with a slander suit against her. He's out on $5,000 bail, and his football status is undetermined, pending the outcome of his trial.

And at least one Buff-to-be got into trouble even before arriving in Boulder. High school running back Marc Jones of Oceanside. Calif., who had signed a letter of intent in February 1988, was sentenced last July to a year in jail for striking a 17-year-old boy in the head with a rock, leaving him partly blind in one eye. The Buffaloes withdrew their scholarship offer to Jones, who attended the same high school as Aunese.

The rape and burglary charges against Reliford have led the Colorado campus police to question the actions of athletic-department officials. According to police, at about 2 a.m. on Jan. 20, Reliford broke into a dorm room shared by two women, made sexual advances to one of its occupants, was rebuffed, bit her on the neck and raped her.

But on Feb. 3, when a warrant was issued for Reliford's arrest, he was nowhere to be found. University detective David Wurl says he staked out Reliford's dorm room and classes in vain. Reliford turned himself in to police on Feb. 9—the day after the national letter-of-in-tent signing day for high school recruits. Wurl, for one, suspects that Reliford was kept conveniently out of sight in an effort to delay adverse publicity until after next year's Buffaloes had been lassoed.

Says Wurl, "How else does an 18-year-old kid suddenly pull up stakes and abandon his classes without telling anyone? Then, right after signing day, he reappears?"

McCartney angrily denies that he or anyone else connected with the Buffaloes had hidden Reliford, who, it turns out, was home in Detroit. "I resent anybody who says we did," says McCartney. "They [the campus police] came over on the ninth asking us if we knew where Marcus Reliford was, and a half hour later we delivered him.... There was no interference on my part."

Critics of the Colorado program suggest that McCartney has lost control of his athletes. But some observers say that Boulder gives the Buffs a difficult time—especially if they are black, as most of the arrestees have been. Both Boulder and the university are overwhelmingly white; in the 1980 census blacks accounted for 1.5% of the city's population, a percentage that has not changed significantly. Blacks also make up less than 2% of Colorado's student body.

Says Theo Gregory, the academic coordinator for the athletic department, "If you're a black football player here, you're ethnically a minority because you're black, socially a minority because you're an athlete, culturally a minority because you might come from the projects, economically a minority because you can't afford to drive a BMW and physically a minority because you're bigger than everybody else. Somebody racially slurs you, and you might have a tendency to overreact."

The Colorado athletic department also complains that the local press is too quick to turn a snowflake into an avalanche, and the local police are too eager to make collars for fighting. Says defensive tackle Joe Avila, "Most places, they just break up the fight and send everybody home." Says Colorado sports publicist Dave Plati, "If a punch is thrown in Laramie, do you think it makes Page One?"

Ironically, McCartney had been regarded as a strict disciplinarian. He insists that his players do their class-work, and, in fact, his team is believed to have a respectable graduation rate. The athletic department's drug policy is among the firmest in the country—Colorado athletes are automatically suspended from participating in sports for one year the first time that they test positive. McCartney also has been trying to confront the difficulties faced by black athletes. Once a year, the Buffaloes' black players meet with black leaders from the Boulder area.

Starting in March, all players will be required to attend a 1½-hour date-rape seminar, with more seminars to come. And starting last fall, every freshman was given a "mentor"—a professor or university leader not associated with the athletic department—whom he can talk to. Unfortunately, the mentor program has looked good only on paper. For one thing, Reliford had a mentor. For another, there doesn't seem to be a lot of mentoring going on. For example, one mentor, assistant journalism dean Steve Jones, was assigned two freshmen in September and, as of February, he still hadn't met them.

What is most troubling is the general naivetè in the university administration about the football team's crime wave. When school president Gordon Gee was told of Aunese's arrest, he said, "I may...have to go over and personally emphasize the exemplary role we expect our athletes to play. Maybe hearing it from me will be helpful to them."

McCartney sometimes doesn't seem to grasp the seriousness of the situation either. After the Reliford arrest, he told Denver television reporter Jane Hampden, "Rape by definition is a violent act; an act whereby there's real physical violence involved, and so I don't think that's what we're talking about here."

Said Boulder district attorney Alex Hunter, "It's obvious to me that one more spot in that date-rape seminar should be reserved for the football coach."

Still, as bad as things have been in Boulder, Buffalo fans figure their team's troubles would barely make the 10 o'clock news in Norman, Okla. "If you look closely," McCartney says, "you'll notice that we haven't had anybody shoot anybody, we're not on probation, and our program is honest and forthright."

And in every detective's vest pocket.

MILES KUSAYANAGI: Awaiting trial on rape and kidnap charges
PHOTO[See caption above.]
A. WEATHERSPOON: Criminal trespass; six months probation
PHOTO[See caption above.]
KANAVIS MCGHEE: Second-degree assault; deferred sentence
PHOTO[See caption above.]
SAM SUTHERLAND: Assault; deferred sentence and therapy
PHOTO[See caption above.]
JO JO COLLINS: Brawling; given one year deferred sentence
PHOTO[See caption above.]
ERIC BIENIEMY: Disorderly conduct; community service
PHOTO[See caption above.]
CHRIS SYMINGTON: Misdemeanor menacing; community service
PHOTO[See caption above.]
MARCUS RELIFORD: Charged with rape and burglary; free on bail
PHOTO[See caption above.]
ANDY MASSUCCO: Charged with rape; now free on bail
PHOTO[See caption above.]
SAL AUNESE: Misdemeanor assault; 14 days in jail

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