At the height of his fame as Louisiana State University’s head football coach, Les Miles was accused of texting female students, taking them to his condo alone, making them feel uncomfortable and, on at least one occasion, kissing a student and suggesting they go to a hotel after telling her he could help her career, according to an internal investigative report released by LSU on Thursday.
The investigation, done by an outside law firm on behalf of LSU in 2013, did not find that Miles had sexual relationships with any of the women. But it found his behavior inappropriate. Miles strongly denied kissing the girl, according to the report. He said that he did nothing wrong and was simply mentoring young women at the university.
Miles also had been accused by athletic department staff of saying that the female student workers who helped the football team lure top recruits needed to be attractive, blonde and fit, according to the investigative report. Existing student employees who did not meet this criteria should be given fewer hours or terminated, the report details.
As a result of the investigation’s findings, LSU issued Miles a letter of reprimand and required him to sign forms stating that he had read and understood the school’s policies. The university also ordered him to stop hiring football operations or athletic department student employees to babysit, cease being alone with them, and attend eight, one-hour sessions with an attorney and pay for it out of his own pocket.
If Miles repeated his behavior, the school said in the letter, he would lose his job and violate his contract.
The allegations against Miles – now head coach at the University of Kansas – were first made public after USA TODAY sued for the records in January. LSU initially refused to release the records and Miles intervened in USA TODAY’s lawsuit, asserting his reputation would be ruined if the report was made public. Miles dropped his bid to keep the records sealed, with his lawyer saying its release was necessary to defend himself against negative media attention.
In 2013, Miles and LSU took steps to ensure the records remained secret, according to a letter released with the investigative report. In it, attorneys for LSU tell Miles that should anyone request it, LSU said, the school would fight the release in court.
The internal investigation into Miles is the latest discovery by USA TODAY, which has revealed widespread mishandling of sexual misconduct allegations by LSU’s athletic department and broader administration. USA TODAY’s reporting prompted LSU to hire outside law firm Husch Blackwell in November to audit its handling of dozens of sexual misconduct cases since 2016.
Read USA TODAY’s investigation::LSU mishandled sexual misconduct complaints against students, including top athletes
The Husch Blackwell report, which is slated to be released publicly on Friday, is expected to reveal even more about Miles’ conduct during his time at LSU, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the probe.
Miles disputed some of the findings in the report and told investigators that nothing inappropriate happened and that it was part of his job to mentor students. One student worker told investigators that Miles had kissed her twice while they were driving in his car, after suggesting “that they go to a hotel together and mentioned his condo as another meeting place. He also complimented her on her appearance and said he was attracted to her.”
Investigators said they were not able to determine what happened between Miles and the student in the car. Miles denied kissing her. But even if they were to accept Miles’ version of events, investigators said, “it appears that he has shown poor judgment.”
“We’re thrilled this important document has been released,” said Scott Sternberg, attorney for USA TODAY. “We think the Judge’s redactions were judicious and appropriately reveal to the concerned public how LSU handled these allegations against Louisiana’s most famous name and highest-paid state employee.”
Miles served as LSU’s head football coach from 2005 to 2016. He led the Tigers to the national championship game twice, winning it in 2007. In 2011, several organizations, including The Associated Press, named him the National Coach of the Year.
In January 2013, LSU awarded him a two-year contract extension that increased his salary to $4.3 million per year, making him the fourth-highest-paid college football coach in the country at the time.
“Les Miles is one of the most successful coaches in America and he has the LSU program in position to compete for championships each and every year in the most dominant football conference in the country,” LSU athletic director Joe Alleva said then in a statement. “He recruits at an elite level, his players graduate and he is a respected member of the community. We are proud he will lead the LSU football program for the long-term future.”
The student workers’ complaints of his sexual harassment surfaced one month laterone month later. Yet it wasn’t until 2016, after LSU got off to a 2-2 start, that the school fired him. Miles’ attorneys said in court documents that his firing was “wholly unrelated” to the allegations in the report.
The University of Kansas, the state’s flagship public college, hired Miles in November 2018. He was paid $3.3 million in 2020, making him the highest-paid public employee in the state, according to 24/7 Wall Street.
Kansas spokesman Dan Beckler told USA TODAY last week that the school did not know about the allegations when Miles was hired. It had spoken with Miles and was gathering more information, Beckler said.
“Because this involves Coach Miles’ former employer and pre-dates his time at KU, and because we do not have factual knowledge about details of these allegations, it is not appropriate for us to comment further,” Beckler said.
According to the investigation report, which replaces references to Miles’ name with “XXX,” Miles became more “hands on” about matters in the athletic department after leading LSU to the national title, “including the student employees.” The report says that Miles was involved in both recruiting and interviewing female student employees in 2012, and made it known they should 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.”
But Miles’ interest in some employees extended beyond their hiring, according to women interviewed by the investigators.. The student workers who reported Miles to their bosses in 2013 said he offered to help them get jobs in the industry, telling one she might be able to work for him “on his personal business” after graduation.
One worker, who is referred to as Student No. 2, along with her father reported Miles to the student’s supervisor, LSU director of football recruiting Sharon Lewis. Miles had started sending her Facebook messages, and during a meeting with Miles alone in his office, she said he suggested she could work for his personal business when she graduated. She said Miles told her to enter her phone number into his phone and to use an alias, and that he would do the same for her. Miles then initiated a text message conversation with her and made plans to meet her.
The student said Miles picked her up in his car, alone. He suggested they go to a hotel together and also mentioned his condo as another meeting place, the report says. Miles also complimented her appearance and said he was attracted to her. He parked his car behind the LSU athletic complex, she said, and kissed her twice.
Miles told the investigator the purpose of this meeting was to “talk with her more about her career aspirations and to tell her about a sports agent he had seen on a recent trip.” He admitted driving her alone in his car but denied kissing her.
The investigator said she was “unable to determine what occurred in the car between” Miles and Student No. 2.
“However, there can be little doubt that the conduct, if true, is inappropriate and unacceptable,” the report says. “Even accepting XXX’s version of events, it appears that he has shown poor judgment in placing himself (and the student employee) in a situation in which the student employee might be uncomfortable and/or he can be subject to such complaint.”
Another student worker, referred to as Student No. 1, reported that she had a phone call and other interactions with Miles that made her uncomfortable. The student said she became concerned when Miles had asked her to babysit his children, but then changed his plans and asked her to join them to go watch a movie. This student had also stayed at Miles’ condo one night, at Miles’ wife’s suggestion, the report says.
The report also says that Student No. 1 told Student No. 2 that Miles had “cornered” and touched her, but she denied this during her interview with the investigator. Student No. 2 maintained that Miles had subjected her to “unwanted touching.”
As a result of Student No. 1’s concerns, then-athletic director Joe Alleva met with Miles and barred him from having any one-on-one meetings or interactions with student employees, and from texting or calling them. The athletic department also conducted various sexual harassment trainings, and Miles was told that student employees could not babysit for him.
The report says Miles texted at least one other former student employee using his burner phone. The student said she wasn’t uncomfortable with it, though she found it unusual. The investigator found it “troubling,” she wrote, that other department employees addressed the situation by telling the student to ignore the texts; the employees “implied that others had similar experiences,” the report says.
The investigator wrote that she interviewed other students and supervisors, but not every student working with Student No. 2, so as not to jeopardize her confidentiality and because she “did not have any indication that any other student employee has had a similar experience.”
The investigator said she did not find cause to discipline or terminate Miles, but recommended remedial steps to address his “problematic behaviors.” This included a written directive prohibiting him from having one-to-one contact with student employees and requiring him to use his LSU-issued cell phone for communication with employees. She also recommend Miles attend counseling “to help him understand how to establish appropriate boundaries with students and student employees.”