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Air Force Academy superintendent orders investigation of athletic department after Gazette inquiry

August 1, 2014 Updated: January 9, 2015 at 6:17 pm
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photo - Air Force Academy football players line up for drills Thursday, July 31, 2014 for the first day of football practice for the 2014 season. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette
Air Force Academy football players line up for drills Thursday, July 31, 2014 for the first day of football practice for the 2014 season. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette 

The superintendent of the Air Force Academy has ordered an investigation into athletic programs in response to Gazette inquiries about player misconduct and issues involving the teams.

The Gazette investigation, which will appear in Sunday's edition, examines recruiting, academic programs and steps the institution is taking to ensure athletes live up to the academy's honor code. The Gazette's story will recount how a group of athletes was investigated by Air Force officials after allegations of sexual assault and drug use at December 2011 party.

The Gazette based its investigation on dozens of interviews and hundreds of pages of government documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

"I've asked the USAFA IG (inspector general) to start their review of the mission elements with the Athletic Department," Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson wrote in a statement to the newspaper this week. "These efforts will help in eliminating subcultures at the Air Force's Academy whose climates do not align with our institutional core values."

The school's athletic director and football coach also pledged to change their recruiting standards.

In anticipation of The Gazette's release of the investigation and its possible ramifications, the academy's public affairs office emailed community leaders, parents of cadets, politicians and boosters Thursday night to alert them to what leaders thought might appear in the story.

"The Colorado Springs Gazette is working on a story about the climate and culture in the athletic department focused primarily on our football program," wrote David Cannon, academy director of communications. "This past behavior was troubling and suggested certain subcultures that were inconsistent with the culture of commitment and climate of respect we work hard to uphold at USAFA."

Another email with similar language was sent Friday to academy alumni by Col. Kevin Lamberth, the academy's vice superintendent. Lambert addressed how Johnson was trying to be "as transparent as possible" with The Gazette while providing steps that addressed and will address the issues within the athletic department.

Johnson said the Thursday nationwide email blast from the public affairs office was part of an effort to keep key figures informed of happenings at the school.

"The intent of our communications department was to be proactive in its correspondence to some of our key constituencies, in the spirit of transparency," she wrote in an email to the newspaper.

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Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240

Twitter: @xroederx

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