LSU routinely mishandled sexual misconduct claims against football players, report finds

By: Molly Hensley-Clancy

LSU repeatedly mishandled sexual misconduct investigations within its storied football program, ignoring Title IX and violating university policies in the face of allegations against players and staff members, according to an investigation by an outside law firm released Friday.

The report comes on the heels of revelations Thursday that former LSU football coach Les Miles was the subject of multiple complaints from female students, including allegations he kissed a student and discriminated against female students based on their appearance. Miles was placed on leave from his position at the University of Kansas, pending the university’s own investigation, Kansas’s athletic director announced Friday.

LSU said it would briefly suspend two employees without pay as a result of the report, which was conducted by the law firm Hirsch Blackwell.

“I’m embarrassed of what’s happened in the past,” LSU Athletic Director Scott Woodward said during a board meeting Friday.

The report details a culture within LSU’s athletics department that normalized sex discrimination and stifled abuse claims by routing them through the athletic department rather than the university’s Title IX office,which is supposed to oversee compliance with the federal civil rights law that bars discrimination on college campuses.This was especially true of the 2013 allegations against Miles, which Husch Blackwell found were not handled in accordance with university policy.

While the athletic director wanted to fire Miles in the wake of the allegations in 2013, Husch Blackwell found, the coach remained at LSU for three more years.

“I always think that people are innocent until proven guilty and in this case I believe he’s guilty of insubordination, inappropriate behavior, putting the university, athletic dept. and football program at great risk,” former LSU athletic director Joe Alleva wrote to the university president of firing Miles, according to the report. “I think we have cause.”

It was the university’s mishandling of the Miles allegations, one longtime football staffer told the outside investigators, that fueled a culture of misconduct within LSU’s football program.

“It just baffles me, though, that for so long, this went on and that kind of became the normal, right? And you just don’t talk about it and you don’t say anything, you just kind of go, ’cuz we’re protecting LSU, we’re protecting our brand, we’re protecting our head coach,” the staffer said, according to the report.

The staffer told investigators that, had the university taken the allegations against Miles more seriously, “maybe that would have helped clean up a lot of other stuff that maybe wouldn’t have happened further down the line with not just him, with even players and anything like that.”

The Husch Blackwell report found problems within LSU that went far beyond the allegations against Miles, many of which were first detailed in a USA Today investigation last year. Many of the problems were widespread across the university, the report found, not just within the athletic department.

But a practice of keeping sexual misconduct allegations within the athletic department — and away from the school’s Title IX office — violated guidelines and resulted in insufficient investigations of accusations against players, the report found. Other confusing and convoluted processes made it difficult for victims to understand how to make reports.

Karen Truszkowski, an attorney representing several women who alleged abuse at LSU, said she and her clients were “shocked and appalled at the scope of the problems identified in the report.”

“Our clients are devastated to learn that the school they loved so much has not only broken their trust but hurt so many others,” she said.

Derrius Guice, the former Washington Football Team running back who was arrested on domestic violence charges, was accused of sexual misconduct at least three times while at LSU, the report said, but was never disciplined by the university in any of the cases.

Guice’s name was deliberately kept out of the file for an initial accusation of sexual assault against him that the victim chose not to pursue, the report said. That meant the allegation was never revisited when more accusations piled up. A second allegation of sexual assault against Guice was also met with “errors,” Husch Blackwell found, including failures to make reports and follow up with the victim.

In 2017, a 70-year-old security guard at the Superdome accused Guice of sexual harassment, the report found. The incident was again not properly reported to LSU’s Title IX office.