Changed the Game: Katie Hnida paved the way for Sarah Fuller

Nick Bromberg
·4 min read
Katie Hnida stretches before practice with New Mexico.
Katie Hnida was the first woman to score a point at the top level of college football. (AP Photo/Jake Schoellkopf)

"Changed the Game" is a Yahoo Sports series dedicated to the women who are often overlooked, under-appreciated or simply deserve more flowers for their contributions to women's sports history.

WHM
WHM

Katie Hnida helped pave the way for Sarah Fuller over 17 years earlier.

Fuller became the first woman to score in a game between two Power Five conference teams in December when she kicked two extra points for Vanderbilt against Tennessee. Those kicks came a week after Fuller deftly executed a pooch kickoff against Missouri when she became the first woman to play in a game featuring power conference schools.

As Fuller was the first woman to score in an SEC football game, she was the third woman to kick in a football game at the top level of college football. Hnida was the first when she kicked two extra points for New Mexico in 2003. April Goss followed in 2015 when she kicked an extra point for Kent State in the team's win over Delaware State.

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Hnida’s college football journey started at Colorado after she kicked for her high school football team as a senior. While in high school she was invited to walk on with the Buffaloes by former coach Rick Neuheisel and played for Gary Barnett.

Hnida didn’t see the field as a freshman but became the first woman to dress for a bowl game when Colorado played in the 1999 Insight Bowl. After missing her sophomore season because of illness and sitting out the 2001 season, Hnida transferred to New Mexico to continue her career. That's where she made history.

After she had an extra point blocked in the 2002 Las Vegas Bowl, Hnida became the first woman to score in an FBS game in her senior season when she kicked two PATs against Texas State on Aug. 30, 2003.

Katie Hnida speaks out about trauma at Colorado

Following her senior season, Hnida spoke out about her time at Colorado. She told Sports Illustrated that she was raped by a teammate while she was watching television at his house. She said that she was only able to escape the sexual assault when her teammate reached for a ringing phone.

Hnida said she was sexually harassed by other teammates too and said that players groped her and made graphic comments toward her. She relived her trauma to SI after multiple public allegations of sexual assaults by Colorado football players over the past decade.

From SI:

Why didn't she go to the police? "I was so scared of what he might do to me," she says. "And I didn't want a huge media mess. I was already carrying around so much inside me, I was numb."

In 2014, Hnida told Bleacher Report that she had told the Boulder, Colorado district attorney about the accusation. But she didn't pursue charges because of the likelihood of a lenient punishment for her alleged attacker.

Barnett quickly showed how prescient Hnida's prediction of the mess was. When he was asked about Hnida's revelation to Sports Illustrated, Barnett chose to denigrate Hnida's abilities as a player instead of facing the seriousness of her allegations.

"It was obvious Katie was not very good," Barnett said over 17 years ago. "She was awful. Katie was not only a girl, she was terrible. OK? There's no other way to say it."

Colorado soon put Barnett on paid leave. A subsequent investigation uncovered an email Barnett sent immediately after she went public with her allegations. In it, Barnett said "how aggressive should I be re; katie ... sexual conquests by her etc."

Barnett resigned after the 2005 season following allegations that he attempted to sway athletic department staffers' sworn testimony regarding NCAA violations.

Katie Hnida paved the way for April Goss, Sarah Fuller

After graduating from New Mexico, Hnida became a motivational speaker detailing her experiences at both Colorado and New Mexico. In February, she penned a guest column for the Albuquerque Journal lauding her time at New Mexico and the support that she received while at the school.

That support was not unlike the support Fuller had at Vanderbilt and the support Goss had at Kent State where she was carried off the field following her kick. While top-level college football will still be a male-dominated sport for the foreseeable future, Hnida showed the world that a woman belongs. And, more importantly, she should be commended for her courage to speak out in an era where it was much harder.

Changed The Game: Female athletes who paved the way.
Changed The Game: Female athletes who paved the way.