President McConnell opens investigation into allegations regarding CSU Athletics

Editor’s note: This message from President Joyce McConnell was sent to the entire Colorado State University community following media reports published on Aug. 4. Director of Athletics Joe Parker and Head Football Coach Steve Addazio also released statements, which are included here.

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 McConnell
President, Colorado State University

Statement from 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.”

Statement from 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.”

CSU University Communications Staff