Former Louisiana State University head football coach Les Miles’ behavior was so problematic during his tenure at the school that his then-boss, LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva, recommended his firing in June 2013.
But the university instead kept Miles on its payroll for another three years and buried a report detailing the coach’s alleged sexual advances on female student workers, hands-on approach to hiring women and comments about the appearance of women in his office.
The new revelations about Miles, who is now the head football coach at the University of Kansas, come from a 148-page investigative report into the school’s handling of sexual misconduct released Friday. LSU launched the investigation in December after reporting by USA TODAY uncovered systemic mishandling of sexual misconduct allegations. It hired outside law firm Husch Blackwell to conduct the review.
Kansas spokesman Dan Beckler did not immediately return a request for comment Friday from USA TODAY. Beckler has said previously that Kansas was not aware of allegations of sexual misconduct against Miles when he was hired in 2018.
According to the Husch Blackwell report, the university had “chronicled significant alleged misconduct committed by the then-most powerful person in the Athletics Department (and perhaps the University), LSU Football Coach Les Miles, from approximately 2009 until Miles’ departure in 2016.”
The coach allegedly attempted to sexualize the staff of students working for the LSU football team in 2012, allegedly demanding he wanted “blondes with the big boobs” and “pretty girls.”
Husch Blackwell interviewed witnesses who said Miles participated in interviewing female student employees and “wanted them to have a certain look.” Three witnesses said Miles openly categorized them as “a.m. and p.m. girls,” while several other employees recalled Miles referring to them as looking like “a bad bowling team.” Only certain student workers were allowed in Miles’ office, and “most of them… were blonde” and “they were all attractive,” the report notes. One witness said he recalled Miles saying many times, “I want the blondes not the brunettes working in this office.”
“It makes me want to vomit, because it was kind of that every year it got a little worse and a little worse,” one witness told Husch Blackwell, “and for a while, after a while it almost became normal that we can’t hire anybody that’s fat and ugly.”
Husch Blackwell noted there is no record of these reports ever being investigated.
Miles has denied all allegations of misconduct.
The team’s longtime director of football recruiting, Sharon Lewis, in 2019 reported “significant alleged misconduct” by Miles spanning nearly seven years beginning in 2009. Lewis’ report to the deputy Title IX coordinator included Miles’ comments about his preferred “look” for female student workers and that he took a more direct role in the hiring of those student workers after losing the 2012 national championship game. LSU did nothing to investigate those allegations in 2019, the Husch Blackwell report notes.
Lewis told Husch Blackwell she repeatedly reported her concerns about Miles’ conduct at the time to athletics administrators at the time, as well, but that her reports “went nowhere.” Lewis said her “worst nightmare happened” when one of her student employees came to her “completely traumatized about an incident that had happened when she was alone with Miles, noting she had a “dead stare” and kept saying over and over, “You know what you did to me.”
Lewis said she reported this information to Senior Associate Athletic Director Miriam Segar. The student met with Segar, but two athletic department employees who spoke to Husch Blackwell said that LSU “never did anything about it.” There are no records showing that the student’s concerns were ever investigated, nor does she appear to have been provided with notice of her rights, options and supportive resources, the report notes.
After the incident, Athletic Director Joe Alleva ordered Miles to have no contact with student workers and required additional sexual harassment training for all athletics employees.
In 2013, a second student worker told Lewis that Miles had sent her inappropriate text messages. Lewis shared the text messages with Segar, who along with Alleva conducted their own cursory investigation — a step at odds with university policies. LSU’s then-interim chancellor William Jenkins asked outside law firm Taylor Porter to investigate the allegations with Segar’s assistance. This, Husch Blackwell wrote, “raises conflict of interest concerns as it is not clear how the firm could have been neutral in the investigation.”
As part of the Taylor Porter review, the student noted that Miles had personally interviewed her for a job and promised to help her career after she graduated, noting that she could potentially assist his personal business. Miles asked her to put her phone number in his phone under an alias, she said, and then began texting her and asking to meet. She said he picked her up in his car alone one day, parked behind the LSU athletic complex and kissed her twice.
Another student told Taylor Porter that a phone call from and other interactions with Miles made her feel uncomfortable. A third student the law firm reached out to refused to be interviewed.
Taylor Porter concluded that Miles’ conduct was inappropriate, and he deserved to be reprimanded for it, but that it did not constitute prohibited sexual harassment under the law. Husch Blackwell disagreed, according to its report. The results of the investigation at the time were communicated to three members of LSU’s Board of Supervisors, who accepted Taylor Porter’s findings and recommendations and took no further action.
Two months later, Alleva wrote to then-LSU president F. King Alexander and the school’s legal counsel with the recommendation that LSU fire Miles for his conduct.
“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,” Alleva wrote. “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. ”
LSU, however, did not fire Miles, who had just received a contract extension that made him the fourth-highest-paid college football coach in the U.S. Instead, it issued the written reprimand, the counseling requirement, and a directive for him to have no one-on-one contact, calls or texts with female student workers.
Lewis told Husch Blackwell she became so distressed by the “lack of support” from the administration that she had a mental breakdown and received mental-health treatment that LSU paid for. Lewis also said Miles and other athletic department staff retaliated against and were hostile to her. A longtime former football staff member also described feeling that the athletic department put its public image above everything else.
“To think that that was almost normal for us and because we had been involved in that so long, until you step back and look at it and go, my God, what did we—what were we doing, you know?” the staff member, who is anonymous in the report, told Husch Blackwell. “But that’s how—that’s the progression it came to… It just became normal, which is sick now that you think about it.”
Husch Blackwell’s report noted that this decision had lasting effects on the athletic department.
“It is difficult to meaningfully determine the full extent of the impact this incident and the University’s handling of it had on the climate within the Athletics Department—both in terms of creating a culture which tolerated sexual misconduct and dissuaded employees from reporting that misconduct. It certainly was not positive.”