Hnida closing in on another Colorado football first

Most players who’ve been through what Katie Hnida experienced at CU would have run away from the game of football, but Hnida keeps coming back for more game time and more firsts. Attempting to add to her trailblazing record, Katie Hnida, the University of Colorado kicker who left the school after alleging that she was harassed and sexually molested by teammates, is back on the male-dominated gridiron with hopes of playing for a metro-area semi-pro football team.

Hnida, the first woman to play in Division I college football, is the only female player to join about 90 male athletes trying out for the newly formed Colorado Cobras, an Aurora-based minor league football team.

Hnida has said she was sexually harassed and molested by teammates at CU, where she was a place-kicker in 1999. In 2004, then-head coach Gary Barnett came under fire when it was revealed sex and alcohol were used to lure football recruits to the school.
At the time, Hnida joined other women accusing her former CU teammates of rape. In response, Barnett dismissed both her accusations and her ability on the field. He was briefly suspended over the controversy. 

Hnida went on to play football at the University of New Mexico, where she also became the first woman to score in Division I football.

Hnida declined to comment for this report as she finished practice March 15 for the Cobras. 

The Cobras are one of 10 teams in the Colorado Football Conference, which was formed in 1987, said Cobra owner and head coach Lou Florez. If Hnida makes the team, which Florez expects, she’ll be the first woman to play in the conference. 

“She’s been great to have around. She’s just looking to make the team and contribute to a successful season,” said Florez, who first coached Hnida at Chatfield Senior High in Jefferson County.

He added that Hnida runs drills, which some male kickers would shun, with the other players.

“There’s been no resistance,” Florez said. “I think they look at her as just one of the guys.”

The Cobras’ Web site also lists Hnida’s father Denver CBS4’s medical editor Dave Hnida, as the team doctor. . Hnida could not be reached for comment.

Katie Hnida is one of only a handful of women to play football at the college level.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association does not keep statistics on how many women have played or are playing on college teams, said Jennifer Kearns, spokeswoman for the NCAA.

According to a National Federation of State High School Associations report,
1,035 high school girls participated on 11-player football teams last year, although the report doesn’t specify whether any of those teams were all-female squads. 

Although Hnida would be the CFC’s first female player, she’d also be following in the footsteps of kicker Patricia Barzi Palinkas, who played on a semi-pro, all-male Florida Team in the 1970s, according to The Broward-Palm Beach New Times, a Village Voice Media publication. 

If Hnida takes the field as a Cobra in June, Florez is likely to start the team huddle as he did at the recent tryout practice.

“Ladies and gentleman …”

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