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Miles firing suggested in '13, LSU inquiry reveals

Written by 
Published in Breaking News
Friday, 05 March 2021 13:05

Former LSU athletic director Joe Alleva recommended in 2013 that Les Miles be fired as head coach of the football program after accusations of inappropriate behavior with female student workers, according to a scathing investigative report released Friday that detailed systemic failures by LSU to appropriately report incidents of athletic-related sexual misconduct and abuse.

According to the investigation by Husch Blackwell, Alleva sent an email on June 21, 2013, to LSU's legal counsel and incoming LSU president F. King Alexander. Alleva wrote, "one more time I want us to think about which scenario is worse for LSU. Explaining why we let him go or explaining why we let him stay."

"I believe he is guilty of insubordination, inappropriate behavior, putting the university, athletic dept and football program at great risk," Alleva wrote in the email, which was included in the report. "I think we have cause. I specifically told him not to text, call or be alone with any student workers and he obviously didn't listen. I know there are many possible outcomes and much risk either way, but I believe it is in the best interest in the long run to make a break."

Husch Blackwell, which LSU hired in November, interviewed nearly 50 current and former university employees, students, witnesses and other university community stakeholders for its report, which was released one day after a 2013 internal investigation made public by LSU accused Miles of inappropriate behavior toward female students.

Miles' attorney, Peter Ginsberg, declined additional comment on Friday. On Thursday, he said the release of the Taylor Porter Report "should put an end to the baseless, inaccurate media reports that Coach Les Miles engaged in an inappropriate touching of an Athletic Department student volunteer eight years ago.

"As the Report concludes, the allegation that Coach Miles attempted to kiss the woman was supported by no evidence and warranted no discipline: 'We do not believe under existing law and the terms of the contract there is cause to discipline and/or terminate' Coach Miles. Coach Miles denied then, as he denies now, that any such conduct occurred."

The authors of the Husch Blackwell report wrote that "we are not in a position to offer an opinion on whether the allegations against him are true or not. Instead, the issue is whether the University responded to this report against a powerful member of the University and Athletics Department in a manner consistent with then-existing legal guidance, well-recognized best practices, and institutional policy. The answer is 'no.'"

The lengthy Husch Blackwell investigation, which was prompted by a November story in USA Today, found that LSU's Title IX office has never been appropriately staffed or provided with the independence and resources to carry out the federal law's mandates. It also revealed that the university's process for reporting allegations was enormously complicated.

LSU interim president Tom Galligan Jr. said on Friday his intention is to accept and act on "every one of those 18 recommendations" that Husch Blackwell included in its report.

"We as an institution failed to live up to our commitments," he said. "We let some of those who were depending on us down. It is clear our institution as a whole deserves blame. This is an example of serious institutional failure, but people also made mistakes we cannot ignore. That cannot and must not go unaddressed."

Galligan said LSU will impose a 30-day suspension without pay for executive deputy athletic director Verge Ausberry, who is required to undergo domestic and sexual violence training. The university also imposed a 21-day suspension without pay for Miriam Segar, a former LSU basketball player who has been a part of the staff since 2005. She will also undergo the same training.

Those were the only two individuals held publicly accountable at Friday's board of supervisors meeting, as many of those involved -- including Miles, who is now the head coach at Kansas -- have since left the university. Galligan said he will consider the entire report and make further personnel decisions accordingly.

"I don't think it's going to take very long," he said.

"The issue is whether the University responded to this report against [Les Miles] in a manner consistent with then-existing legal guidance, well-recognized best practices, and institutional policy. The answer is 'no.'" Husch Blackwell report

According to the report, athletic department employee Sharon Lewis, a longtime football operations employee who lodged several reports of sexual harassment throughout her own tenure, recounted an incident in 2013 she called her "worst nightmare."

A student came to Lewis, according to the report, "very upset about something that happened when she was alone with Coach Miles." According to Lewis, the student requested her assistance in confronting Miles regarding the allegations. Another longtime football operations employee was present for the meeting and said the student was "completely traumatized" by the alleged incident, saying, "This child had a dead stare ... she just kept saying, over and over, 'You know what you did to me.'"

The investigation determined there wasn't any record of the student's concern being investigated "in a manner consistent with then-university policy." There also weren't any other records or evidence of that student being provided with any notice of her rights, options or support resources.

At the time, Miles was the highest-paid public employee in Louisiana and scheduled to make $4.3 million per year. He had just completed his eighth season as head football coach and was awarded a significant increase in his salary.

Following the incident, Alleva, then the LSU athletic director, told Miles he wasn't allowed to have any contact with student workers and hired the law firm of Taylor Porter to provide training to all athletic employees on a variety of compliance topics, including sexual harassment.

In spite of the training, in February 2013 a second student employee reported "inappropriate contact and text messages with Miles" to Lewis. The investigation concluded the second student's report of sex discrimination "was clearly not handled in a manner consistent with then university policy."

Then-interim LSU chancellor William Jenkins asked Taylor Porter to investigate the allegations with Segar's assistance. During the course of their investigation, Taylor Porter learned that numerous athletic department employees indicated that Miles became more involved with many things in the athletic department, including the selection of student employees, following his team's loss in the 2012 national championship game.

According to witnesses interviewed by Husch Blackwell, Miles allegedly participated in recruiting and interviewing female student employees and "wanted them to have a certain look." According to Husch Blackwell, at least three witnesses recalled Miles labeling the student workers as "a.m. and p.m. girls" -- a designation which Miles also openly gave to female full-time football operations staff members.

The investigative report said "several other employees recalled Miles referring to the student workers as looking like a 'bad bowling team.'"

Employees interviewed as part of Husch Blackwell's review said "only certain ones were allowed to be in the head coach's office, not everyone. And most of them were either blonde, they were all attractive, but most of them that came through here were blonde."

According to the report, another individual recalled Miles saying "many times" that "I want the blondes not the brunettes working in this office." One witness was quoted in the report saying, "It makes me want to vomit, because it was kind of that every year it got a little worse and a little worse and for a while, after a while it almost became normal that we can't hire anybody that's fat and ugly."

According to the Husch Blackwell review, there is no record of these reports of sex discrimination in the university's files and there is no record of these reports ever being investigated. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 ("Title IX") prohibits sex discrimination in an institution's education programs and activities.

Husch Blackwell's report disagreed with LSU's outside counsel's determination that the second student's allegations, even if true, would not constitute prohibited sexual harassment under applicable law. Husch Blackwell said that Miles "had acted inappropriately and was required to attend training."

"It is our understanding that Miles also entered into a release agreement with Student 2," the Husch Blackwell report stated, "the terms of which we are not privy."

"We as an institution failed to live up to our commitments. We let some of those who were depending on us down. It is clear our institution as a whole deserves blame. This is an example of serious institutional failure, but people also made mistakes we cannot ignore. That cannot and must not go unaddressed." Tom Galligan Jr., LSU interim president

The Nov. 16, 2020, story in USA Today reported three student LSU cases that were allegedly mishandled by the university, and two included star players Drake Davis and Derrius Guice. According to USA Today, "Guice and Davis included, at least nine LSU football players have been reported to police for sexual misconduct and dating violence since coach Ed Orgeron took over the team four years ago, records show. But the details of how LSU handled complaints against the other seven, including two who played key roles on its 2020 national championship team, remain largely secret."

The Husch Blackwell report stated that a woman said she started dating Davis during the summer of 2016 when he first arrived on campus. They met through a mutual friend and she thought Davis "seemed like a really nice guy, very charismatic, very goofy." The report stated that she said "pretty soon into [their] relationship" Davis started abusing her "verbally and emotionally ... but it was very subtle."

The Husch Blackwell report concluded that despite "all of the murkiness surrounding the [Jade] Lewis investigation, there is no question that the incident was not timely reported to the Title IX Office. There is also no question that Jade Lewis was abused by Drake Davis in May 2017 and from April 2018 until at least August 2018."

Lewis was a highly recruited tennis player who enrolled at the university in January 2017. Husch Blackwell's investigation revealed that Davis admitted to punching Lewis, and her injuries were so severe that she had "very swollen" ribs weeks after being punched.

"While we recognize the complexity of the situation -- namely, Lewis was a reluctant participant in the process and continued to initiate contact with Davis -- at the risk of being repetitive, we believe it was clear error to not interimly suspend Davis from the University at this point and move forward with disciplinary proceedings against him," the report stated.

"While we knew there were serious issues with LSU's Title IX compliance, we are shocked and appalled at the scope of the problems identified in this report," said Karen Truszkowski, an attorney for Lewis and several other victims. "Our clients are devastated to learn that the school they loved so much has not only broken their trust but hurt so many others. They are still processing this information and have nothing further to share at this time."

The Husch Blackwell investigation also focused on Guice, who was a highly recruited running back from Baton Rouge who committed to attend LSU in 2015 and became a household name in 2016. While at LSU, Guice was accused of misconduct that implicated the university's Title IX policies at least three times. According to the investigation, none of those accusations of misconduct were investigated by the university, and Guice was never disciplined for any of them. Guice's attorney has adamantly denied that Guice engaged in sexual misconduct while at LSU.

Scott Schneider, a partner at Husch Blackwell, said he promised LSU an "honest account" of what happened, and also said he has a daughter who attends LSU. He said the report "doesn't pull any punches" and is a "candid assessment" of the problems at LSU.

Of the 18 recommendations made, Schneider said the most important is appropriate staffing of the Title IX office.

"You're going to have to commit resources to bringing in talented, skilled people to help do this work," he said. "No. 2, for me, is the reporting line to the general counsel needs to change. It needs to change immediately. ... If this report is given to you, and we don't implement these recommendations, the same ills we discuss throughout the report will continue to repeat themselves."

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