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Investigation: Fired Colorado State coach Steve Addazio 'likely' called Black custodian 'boy'

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  • Steve Addazio
    American college football coach

Fired Colorado State coach Steve Addazio likely called a Black custodian "boy" in a discussion over a closed bathroom in October 2020, according to a university investigation.

Addazio was fired on Thursday after his buyout dropped from $5 million to $3 million. Colorado State went 4-12 in Addazio's two seasons with the school and was 3-9 in 2021. Addazio was ejected in the first half of the team's final game of the season less than a week ago after receiving two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. 

The incident that prompted the investigation happened in October 2020. A Black custodian at the school was cleaning a bathroom in the football facility and closed the restroom so that chemicals used in the cleaning process could dwell. 

Addazio entered the closed bathroom anyway. And, according to the investigation, he called the custodian "boy" when he was informed by the custodian that the restroom was closed.

From the Coloradoan:

Upon returning to the restroom and beginning to clean the sink area, the custodian alleged that Addazio entered and prepared to use the restroom. The custodian said he told Addazio it was closed, to which the coach continued and said, “I guess I’m going to use it.”

The custodian, who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation when contacted by the Coloradoan, said he replied, “I guess my job doesn’t matter.”

He claims Addazio then turned and said, “What did you say to me, boy?” at which point the custodian again said, “I guess my job doesn’t matter.” The custodian told the investigator that Addazio then followed him out of the restroom and said, “I don’t think you know who I am, boy. I run this building.”

He said Addazio was yelling and the custodian tried to tell Addazio to move on with his day. As the incident continued, the custodian alleged that Addazio then made what he perceived as a threat on his job.

“I don’t think you know who I am. I run this place. Let’s just see if you’re still here tomorrow," the custodian claimed Addazio said.

The Office of Equal Opportunity investigation concluded that Addazio likely made the remark in part because of surveillance footage of the incident. Addazio claimed to investigators that the custodian was the one who escalated the situation and denied that he said "boy." The surveillance footage showed Addazio was the aggressor and his actions on the silent footage were in line with what the custodian said.

Independent investigation concluded weeks earlier

The bathroom incident came after an eight-week investigation by Husch Blackwell into multiple accusations of wrongdoing by Addazio and the athletic department. The investigation started after players accused the football program and athletic department of lax enforcement of coronavirus protocols and the findings were released roughly two weeks before Addazio's confrontation with the custodian. 

After a coronavirus outbreak, a player alleged that coaches were instructing players to not report COVID-19 symptoms so that they could continue to practice. Addazio was accused of rarely wearing his mask despite masking rules in place months before vaccines were readily available.

A report from the COVID-19 protocols investigation included a witness who said that Addazio “attempted to interfere with the investigation and influence their testimony. According to the witness, Addazio told staff that they are employed in the football program ‘because of his good graces’ and ‘during this investigation, I expect absolute loyalty.’” Addazio denied allegations that he tried to interfere in the investigation.

A separate report about the “racial climate” at Colorado State dating back to the Mike Bobo tenure before Addazio arrived made suggestions for how Colorado State could foster better relations in the athletic department.

“Numerous individuals recounted racist incidents involving former coaches and expressed concern that their behavior went unaddressed by athletic department leadership at the time. Although those coaches are no longer associated with the university, some witnesses expressed skepticism regarding the athletic director’s commitment to addressing racial bias incidents and the broader culture within the athletic department.”