Muddied waters or not, the Derrius Guice mess is still a weak look for Ed Orgeron, LSU
There’s a mess in Baton Rouge. A muddy, he said-she said mess.
At the root of it is something simple, yet complicated — how badly did Ed Orgeron and LSU officials drop the ball when it received information regarding alleged sexual assault and sexual harassment claims?
For today’s discussion, let’s focus in on the 2017 allegation against Derrius Guice, which involved him sexually harassing a 74-year-old Superdome employee, Gloria Scott, while attending a high school football game. That came to light in February when the university was investigated by law firm Husch Blackwell for its handling of sexual misconduct cases involving 10 LSU football players, 9 of whom played for Orgeron.
Scott accused Orgeron of lying to investigators about his role in not disciplining the star LSU running back after speaking with her over the phone. Orgeron denied any recollection of speaking to Scott but said that he talked to a man representing Scott. Orgeron said the man demanded Guice be suspended for the Citrus Bowl, and that he wasn’t seeking an apology.
Those waters were muddied when audio recordings, text messages and police reports showed that a man representing Scott, Cleavon Williams, demanded $100,000 for her or that he’d go public with the story if Guice wasn’t suspended for the Citrus Bowl. Orgeron stated that the following week, he “roughly remembered” a man calling the university and demanding financial compensation on Scott’s behalf.
Williams, however, told multiple media outlets that he never spoke to Orgeron, and Scott said that she never authorized Williams to ask for money from the university. For what it’s worth, Guice wasn’t suspended for the Citrus Bowl and the information didn’t come to light until February via the aforementioned Husch Blackwell report.
The latest development in this case was that in lieu of appearing in front of the Senate Select Committee on Women and Children on Thursday, Orgeron instead sent a letter detailing his account of the alleged incident with Guice and Scott. Orgeron was part of a group of 10 LSU staffers, board members and lawyers who declined their voluntary invitations to testify in front of the committee, which is seeking to get to the bottom of LSU’s alleged mishandling of sexual misconduct cases. That was reportedly at the advice of LSU’s top attorney.
If you’re of the impression that this is all one massive conspiracy theory to extort the big in-state school, that’s your deal.
What’s become increasingly obvious is Orgeron and LSU look weak in all of this.
Even if you believe Orgeron’s claim that he never spoke to Scott and that a man demanded $100,000 for Guice’s alleged actions, ask yourself this: Why did the story never go public when the alleged terms weren’t met? Also, Guice had already been accused of sexual misconduct 3 times at LSU before the alleged Superdome incident. Two of those women accused Guice of rape, which didn’t lead to any discipline from Orgeron or LSU.
This alleged mishandling went beyond Orgeron. LSU Senior Associate Athletic Director Miriam Segar, who also sent a letter instead of testifying in person, was suspended 21 days by LSU for leaving Guice’s name off of a 2016 report from a member of the school’s swimming and diving team.
As for why Segar didn’t appear in person to testify, well, let’s just say her attorney didn’t exactly support all the findings of the Husch Blackwell investigation:
Oh wow. Miriam Segar’s attorney, Mary Olive Pierson, says Husch Blackwell:
“either does not know how to do a thorough investigation or had an end game in mind before they started and did whatever was necessary to get to their goal.” https://t.co/VAsEzyumjl
— Brody Miller (@BrodyAMiller) April 6, 2021
LSU obviously has a lot on the line here. It’s the big public university that’s been summoned to speak in court about its handling of serious allegations. Even if high-profile people like Guice weren’t involved, that would still be a significant black eye. Of course the university is going to try to be strategic about how its employees are portrayed publicly. If the plan is to avoid anyone going rogue and saying something under oath that can’t be taken back, so far, it looks like LSU avoided stepping on that land mine with its approach of writing letters.
The problem, as Senator Regina Barrow (D-LA) stated in regards to the written statement from Orgeron, is that more information is needed to get to determine what happened and what didn’t. Barrow’s response to Orgeron’s letter was telling. Here was a key excerpt from it:
“ … The Coach’s statement does nothing to speak directly to the actions that occurred or to which action he took after he learned of the allegations. In fact, his statement seeks to discredit Ms. Scott’s testimony by drawing unfounded parallels between Ms. Scott and others. Coach Orgeron and all those involved in this matter owe it to those ladies to stop with this dismissive behavior and to own up to what occurred, taking responsibility for the actions that took place and the cover-up that followed. Only then can we begin to heal and work towards creating a more safe environment for our students and those who work alongside them …”
If Orgeron wants to be part of the solution instead of the problem, one would think more transparency is a key part of that. The letter, while better than nothing, isn’t full transparency. It comes off as someone trying to, as Barrow said, discredit the accuser while dodging potential questioning.
Orgeron can continue to say that he was “deeply upset” upon seeing Scott’s testimony with the Louisiana Senate Select Committee on Women and Children and that “she deserves to be heard.” But when those words are coming from someone who says that he doesn’t remember speaking to Scott, that loses a bit of sincerity.
The Guice matter is sadly just a piece of this. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is now launching its own investigation of LSU’s Title IX protocols. That investigation will focus on the alleged events that took place involving former LSU athletes beginning with the 2018-19 school year until now. That timeline won’t necessarily focus on what happened with Guice, but it will, however, focus on a key part of Orgeron’s tenure in Baton Rouge.
Those waters won’t be muddied. At least one would think they won’t be.
As long as that hangs over Orgeron, his future is murky at best. We don’t know what else will come to light other than what the Husch Blackwell report detailed. Scott Woodward hasn’t fired Will Wade years removed from the release of the FBI wiretaps, so assuming that the LSU athletic director would be quick to fire Orgeron with cause would be misguided.
Then again, who knows where this is going. In Orgeron’s perfect world, he gets the chance to move past this without any sort of discipline and he bounces back with a Playoff berth, which wins back those who lost faith in him because of a disastrous 2020. That world might not exist.
For the time being, Orgeron’s world is muddier than ever.