Here's what's most troubling about the Les Miles sexual harassment investigation
If you took a lazy approach to learning about why Les Miles made national headlines this week, you might’ve just assumed that the internet tried to cancel another man in a position of power. You might’ve assumed that this is another he said, she said scenario, and that this time, it involved the former LSU and current Kansas coach.
You might not have taken the time to read the 33-page report from Taylor Porter. That was the Baton Rouge-based law firm that conducted a 2013 investigation into sexual harassment allegations against Miles from former LSU students, which only came to light on Thursday after USA Today filed a lawsuit against LSU in January for not releasing the findings of said investigation. The publication dug into the university’s handling of Title IX protocols after it reported on multiple allegations of sexual assault within the athletic department.
USA Today received a copy of the 33-page report on Thursday, and it’s available on The Advocate. It outlined how Miles was ordered to stop having 1-on-1 contact with student employees and that he was mandated to attend counseling sessions.
Regardless of how you feel about Miles as the national championship-winning coach who ran a smash-mouth offense or as the quirky, middle-aged dude with an affinity for eating grass, there’s a specific section of the investigation’s report that should, at the very least, realize why this is troubling.
This was what it said on the third page of the investigation report (note that Miles is referred to as “XXX” in the report):
During the course of our investigation we obtained the following additional information:
- Numerous Athletic Department employees indicate that following the National Championship XXX became more “hands on” about many things in the Athletic Department, including the student employees. In 2012 he participated in recruiting and interviewing female employees. According to the employees who supervise the student employees, XXX made it clear he wanted these employees to have a certain “look” (attractive, blond, fit). He also made their supervisors feel that existing student employees who did not meet this criteria should be given fewer hours or terminated.
Let’s recap because we need a little more context here. And note that again, that’s an independent law firm reporting its findings. Those aren’t the words of 1 disgruntled employee. Those are employees who worked for Miles at the time and were interviewed when the student female employees accused Miles of sexual harassment.
Miles was coming off the 2011 season in which his team reached the BCS National Championship, but lost to Alabama 21-0 in the rematch. Meanwhile, Alabama had won its second national title in 3 years and Nick Saban was about to sign his second consecutive No. 1 recruiting class.
So what did Miles do to try to narrow the gap between LSU and Alabama? He didn’t shake up an offense that got shut out in the national championship, nor did he fire any on-field assistants. Instead, as the report says, Miles became more “hands on,” which he believed should include interviewing and mentoring student employees. Well, that is, only the ones with a certain “look” of being attractive, blond and fit. The others were meant to be phased out.
Miles saw no harm in that. He also apparently saw no harm in messaging a female student employee via Facebook and text, and after an in-person meeting at the athletic facility was missed with her, Miles suggested they instead go for a drive in his car and discuss her career aspirations.
Um … what?
That’s not hearsay. That’s not a full-on Bobby Petrino situation, but Miles, as a married man in his late-50s, admitted to that in the 2013 investigation. What he denied was what the accuser said about him suggesting that they meet at a hotel or his condo, and Miles also said he never kissed the girl twice as alleged.
In the investigation report, that girl is referred to as “Student No. 2.” That’s because by the time she filed her complaint against Miles, LSU was already made aware of another complaint from a female student, who also worked in Football Operations. She was referred to as “Student No. 1.”
That complaint from “Student No. 1” stemmed from an issue that arose while she was babysitting Miles’ kids, which was something that student employees were advised not to do prior to said incident. On an occasion, Miles asked “Student No. 1” to babysit the kids, and he instead stayed, played with the kids and asked her to join them for a movie. “Student No. 1” even spent the night at Miles’ condo one time — at the suggestion of Miles’ wife — because of an issue in her apartment. But apparently a window was broken during her stay and that Miles asked her to accompany her while it was being repaired, which she said made her uncomfortable.
It should come as zero surprise that after that complaint was received by the LSU athletic department, Miles was told that he was no longer allowed to have any one-on-one meetings or interactions with all student employees.
(There was actually a third female student whom Miles texted from his personal cell phone, which was a number that LSU athletic director Joe Alleva, Miles’ personal assistant and LSU senior associate athletic director Miriam Segar didn’t have. The investigation found that the student never responded to Miles’ text after other department employees recommended that would be the best course of action to address the situation.)
Department-wide sexual harassment training and the aforementioned counseling was Miles’ punishment. Would that have been the case had those findings of the 2013 investigation gone public? Who knows if Miles would’ve been fired. What we do know 8 years later is that in 2013, Alleva recommended that Miles be fired with cause:
— Brody Miller (@BrodyAMiller) March 5, 2021
That came from a 148-page investigative report into the school’s handling of sexual misconduct released Friday. That investigation, which was conducted by outside search firm Husch Blackwell, was the result of USA Today’s bombshell report in December that uncovered LSU’s mishandling of sexual misconduct allegations.
So why was the Miles investigation kept under wraps until just recently? The Advocate explained that:
LSU, Miles and attorneys agreed that nobody who received a request for a copy of the investigation would release it “without a final order of a court of competent jurisdiction requiring such release.” USA Today filed a lawsuit for the copy of the report, but before the judge could make a final ruling, Miles withdrew his objections to making it public and LSU agreed to release it.
That’s right. Miles was basically like, “hey, let’s get this all out there. I didn’t do anything wrong.”
You know, just in case you needed another example of his total inability to read the room.
What Miles clearly didn’t choose to acknowledge was that this was a clear abuse of power. Someone fresh off a national championship appearance made the whole-sale decision to get more hands-on with a process that should’ve been beneath him, and then acted inappropriately. Not only did LSU have his back, but even his future employer, Kansas, alleged that it had no prior knowledge of the 2013 investigation report.
This wasn’t just being the creepy guy at the bar. This was using a position of power, of which none is greater among publicly-funded positions in the state of Louisiana than the title of “LSU football coach with a national title,” and being insubordinate.
Some might say, well, what law did he break? He broke his own contract. Hence, why Alleva said LSU could’ve fired Miles with cause in 2013.
Per the terms of the Employment Agreement that Miles signed on July 1, 2006, here’s what the investigation determined about whether Miles violated the terms of his agreement:
Of the cause for provisions in the Employment Agreement, only the general “catch all” provisions would arguably apply to this situation. In general, these provisions require XXX to comport himself at all times “in accordance with the high moral, ethical and academic standards” of the University and not participate in any “serious misconduct which brings XXX into public disrepute sufficient to impair XXX’s ability to continue in his position without adverse impact on the University’s football program or reputation.”
Notice that said “public disrepute.” A coach can’t face public disrepute if an investigation determining he acted inappropriately toward female student employees never sees the light of day.
Miles wasn’t going to step down. He didn’t think he did anything wrong; he was just looking to find that edge to get on Alabama’s level, which ironically enough, he never was able to do once Saban established himself in Tuscaloosa.
LSU succumbed to a national championship-winning coach who had recently come 1 game short of another ring. Alleva’s recommendation for Miles’ firing show that this wasn’t a unanimous decision. But ultimately, the LSU athletic director was overruled.
Miles thought he was acting like a coach doing that one little thing to boost recruiting in order to get LSU over the top. What he actually did was further damage the reputation of a university that’s already under scrutiny for its handling of sexual misconduct. LSU was unwilling to take on whatever national reputation hit it had coming back in 2013. If you don’t think Miles’ pedigree had something to do with that, you’re lying to yourself.
Timing resulted in LSU taking the easy way out. The university let Miles to get a few more cracks at a ring before deciding that his outdated offensive approach was grounds for actually paying him an 8-figure buyout to leave. He should’ve spent time more worrying about modernizing his offense to maximize his talented roster instead of worrying about whether his female student employees had the “look” needed to help LSU recruit better.
Miles has the look, alright. That is, the look of yet another big-time college coach who got drunk on his power.