Rally Cry

A variety of Colorado football fan organizations and individuals have come together and called for a rally to support the Colorado football team, particularly its student-athletes. The rally will take place April 2, in conjunction with the beginning of spring football practices. Organizers are hoping that as many as 1,000 Buffalo supporters will show up for the event.

The rally comes during one of the most trying times in Colorado football history, as the program is embroiled in a so-called scandal involving a high-profile lawsuit and a number of sexual-assault allegations.

In February, head coach Gary Barnett was placed on administrative leave with pay until April 30, pending an investigation into the football program. He and his assistant coaches and other athletic department officials have welcomed the scrutiny, saying it will clear the program of any alleged wrongdoing. Spring practices will run from April 2-24.

Mike Tanner, a former CU player, has known Barnett since he coached high school football against Barnett in Colorado in the 1970s. Tanner told The Buffalo Sports News that the idea for a rally at the opening of spring practices came about at Barnett's urging during a meeting between Barnett and several organizations, including the Buff Belles and the Buff Clubs.

"The quote I really enjoyed (Barnett) saying was ‘We're all a little bit older and we've got a little bit thicker leather on our skin, we'll all weather this thing. But these kids — this is the only time they'll experience college football, and they're getting beat up from this," Tanner said. "The whole thing was, Gary really wanted to support the kids."

Tanner said he and fellow organizers hoped to have 750-1,000 people at the rally. Rally organizers have sent press releases to local media, sent the word out on fan message boards, and even enlisted the blessing of CU president Elizabeth Hoffman — the one who put Barnett on leave — to send out emails to prospective rallyers on campus.

"Betsy Hoffman's been great through all this," Tanner said. "She let us email all the students."

Fellow event organizer Thom Benning said that although the football program is a hot-button topic right now, the rally is simply meant as a gesture in support of the CU student-athletes.

"We're asking all football fans to come out and support the players, rain or shine," Benning said. "We're not trying to make any political statement, we're just wanting to support the players."

Benning said his group has received emails and letters of support toward the CU players and coaches from around the country and even overseas. Some are sending banners with messages that the group plans to hang at the practice fields or in the Dal Ward Center.

The plan is for rallyers to meet at the Millennium Harvest House at 1:30 p.m. Friday. After a couple of surprise guest speakers share some words, the group will walk to the practice fields at 2:30, where they will line the walkway from the Dal Ward Athletic Center all the way down the hill to the practice fields. The group will form what they are calling the "Tunnel of Fans" through which the football players will pass on their way from the locker room to practice.

Rallyers are encouraged to wear school colors and voice their support of the CU student-athletes.

"We need about 750 we've estimated to take it from the Dal Ward Center all the way to the practice fields," Tanner said. "If we can get 750 to 1,000 people, we'll be thrilled. Anything over that's a bonus."

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