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AMERICAN MORNING

Interview With Charles Johnson

Aired February 20, 2004 - 09:32   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: University of Colorado President Elizabeth Hoffman says the school's head football coach Gary Barnett will remain on paid leave until the end of April. That's when she expects to receive a report from investigators looking into allegations of rape, as well as the football's program's recruiting practices. Six women now claim to have been raped by CU football players since Barnett took over the program. The sixth and the latest one, apparently a bit of disagreement now, according to the president. Perhaps over the weekend, in the days coming that will be more clarified.
Some of Barnett's former players rallying to his side. One of them is with us now, live in Boulder. Charles Johnson, a quarterback at CU in the early '90s, coached by Barnett when Barnett was an assistant at the school. Good to have you here. Good morning.

CHARLES JOHNSON, FORMER COLORADO QUARTERBACK: Thanks for having me, Bill.

HEMMER: Do you think there's a problem in the program there?

JOHNSON: You know, I don't, actually, and we have to keep in mind that if all that we've heard in the media, not a single charge has been filed against a single football player. And I don't understand why these players aren't worthy of the presumption of innocence, particularly given that not one charge has been filed against them.

HEMMER: Yeah, Charles, you know about the allegations about these recruiting parties. What happened when you were recruited and a player there?

JOHNSON: Well, you know, it's interesting, you know. When you talk about recruiting parties, I've never been as one who was being recruited or as a student athlete here, I've never been the host of a recruiting party. What we would do generally is players would come in, we would host them, and then we would go out and find a party on campus somewhere. And so even the suggestion that, you know, football players host these recruiting parties, or sex parties, as some have coined them, I think is largely inaccurate.

HEMMER: So you're saying sex parties never existed at Colorado?

JOHNSON: Well, you know, it's interesting. You know, there are parties that people go to and drink, and some engage in sex, I would imagine, but you know, I guess if you call that a sex party, then so be it. But it's a party, to me, and I don't know how we distinguish the difference between the two.

HEMMER: Who do you think is responsible for keeping this program clean?

JOHNSON: Oh, I think everyone has a responsibility, from the president of the university to the athletic director, to the head coach, and to the players. And I have to remind people, again, that there are a number of players who decided to come to the University of Colorado, who were recruited here, upstanding guys, many of whom are living under this suspicious cloud that I think is unfortunate and unfair, Bill.

HEMMER: Do you think your coach, Gary Barnett, should stay?

JOHNSON: You know, I think he should, and I think we should allow the facts to sort of bear out, and allow the facts to lead us to some conclusion here. I just, again have to remind you that not a single charge has been filed, but given sort of the media reports, you would think that, you know, people have not only been charged but convicted of some crime. That's not the case here.

HEMMER: Charles, you're pretty proud of your school, I take it, pretty proud of the football program. How do you feel personally, these allegations out there, being talked about all across the country?

JOHNSON: Well, you know, it leaves me with a heavy heart, and I think that's the case for most people who have been a part of this program. But I know coach Barnett. I know many of the young men who participate on this football team, and I can say from experience that they're all upstanding individuals, and I stand behind them.

HEMMER: Charles Johnson, former quarterback in Boulder, thank you, Charles. Nice to talk to you.

JOHNSON: Thank you, Bill.

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