USA TODAY Investigation Into LSU’s Handling of Sexual Misconduct Cases Continues to Make Impact
Fallout from USA TODAY’s investigative reporting into LSU’s systemic mishandling of sexual misconduct allegations is widespread and ongoing
USA TODAY reported in November that Louisiana State University had a culture of covering up sexual misconduct allegations. Months later, the fallout from that investigation has been widespread, costing at least two high-profile people their jobs at Kansas, threatening that of another at Oregon and sparking more than a dozen changes at LSU.
But even as the impact of their earlier reporting continues to reverberate nationwide, the journalists behind the investigation – Kenny Jacoby and Nancy Armour at USA TODAY, along with freelancer Jessica Luther – have kept digging.
On Wednesday, USA TODAY published a piece showing that LSU administrator Jonathan Sanders gave rapists, stalkers and other Title IX violators slaps on the wrist. Several women who reported assaults also said Sanders added to their trauma by disciplining them for minor infractions or questioning their stories and clothing choices.
Also Wednesday, the board of trustees at Oregon State met to discuss potential discipline for President F. King Alexander, who was president at LSU until last July, over his role in the failings and decided to place Alexander on probation until June 1.
Last week, former LSU head football coach Les Miles departed his position as head coach at the University of Kansas following USA TODAY’s investigation into LSU’s systemic mishandling of sexual misconduct allegations while Miles led the team there. Also gone from Kansas is the man who hired Miles, then-athletic director Jeff Long.
When reporters first started digging into LSU’s failures to properly report and investigate sexual assault claims, the investigation focused on those involving students. Reporters subsequently learned that the school also mishandled and tried to keep secret allegations of sexual misconduct by the school’s highest-paid and most visible employee – its then-head football coach Les Miles.
Miles was the subject of a secret internal investigation in 2013 into claims he had texted female students, took them to his condo alone, made them feel uncomfortable and, on at least one occasion, kissed a student and suggesting they go to a hotel after telling her he could help her career.
The university refused to release that report when USA TODAY first requested it in December, prompting USA TODAY reporters to sue the school. Miles, too, intervened in the lawsuit and claimed the report’s release would damage his reputation. Ultimately, Miles withdrew his legal objections backed down, and the university gave USA TODAY the report on March 4.
One day later, the school released another investigation that provided more detail about Miles’ behavior. That investigation, done by law firm Husch Blackwell, was requested by LSU in the wake of USA TODAY’s first major investigation into the school’s mishandling of sexual assault claims.
Husch Blackwell also confirmed USA TODAY’s findings that LSU’s handling of sexual misconduct complaints was a “serious institutional failure,” created by campus leaders who never spent enough money, left investigative offices understaffed and, ultimately, left students at risk by not recognizing the trauma abuse victims experience, an investigation by an outside law firm found.
While presenting the report to school leaders Husch Blackwell’s investigator, Scott Schneider, called USA TODAY's reporting "pretty spot on” and said its journalists deserve credit for their work.
"We can't stop now," said USA TODAY sports investigative editor Peter Barzilai to USA TODAY Editor-in-Chief Nicole Carroll last week for “The Backstory” newsletter. "It's not done as long as there are more people coming out with new stories and new allegations and implicating new people. We'll keep going at it. The credit goes to the reporters, because they're the ones who keep uncovering new information."
“While it is encouraging to see such swift and widespread impact from our reporting, the fact that LSU went to great lengths to thwart us from learning the truth makes me wonder what else lurks beneath the surface. We will continue digging until we know all the answers,” said USA TODAY investigations editor Emily Le Coz.