LSU official who didn’t report domestic violence confession remains on presidential search committee

Members of LSU’s governing board declined to comment on his position

Tiger Stadium
LSU's Tiger Stadium (Photo by Julie O'Donoghue / Louisiana Illuminator)

Update:

LSU officials say the athletic administrator mentioned in this story, Verge Ausberry, stepped down from the search committee for LSU’s next president on Thursday afternoon after the story was published. Ausberry attended a virtual meeting of the search committee about 30 minutes before resigning from the group.

LSU spokesman Ernie Ballard said Ausberry made the decision voluntarily.

“I appreciate having had the opportunity to participate and, obviously, remain completely supportive of your most vital efforts, and will provide any outside assistance you might find appropriate,” Ausberry wrote in a resignation note, according to Ballard.

To read an updated version of this story, go here.

Original Story: 

An LSU athletics department administrator who failed to report a football player’s confession of domestic violence to the police, kept accusations of athlete misconduct from the proper school authorities and potentially broke federal law by doing so continues to sit on the search committee for the university’s next president

Verge Ausberry is LSU’s executive deputy director of athletics and executive director of external affairs. He’s the only member of the athletics department to sit on the 20-person committee set up by the LSU Board of Supervisors to select the new head of the university this year. 

The committee met Thursday afternoon to discuss the university president job description, “organizational structures” and outreach to university constituencies regarding the presidential search. Ausberry attended the virtual meeting held over Zoom. He was overseeing the outreach to university constituencies and came up with about 30 people who should be brought into the presidential selection process, according to what was said at the meeting. 

But since being selected for the committee, Ausberry has been implicated in media reports regarding LSU’s growing scandal over domestic violence and sexual assault allegations, particularly those made against athletes.

USA TODAY reported in November that former LSU football player Drake Davis confessed to punching his then-girlfriend, a member of the LSU tennis team, in a text on April 14, 2018, to Ausberry. Ausberry did not tell the police or the university Title IX office — which handles such complaints involving students — as both LSU policy and federal law require. Police only discovered the text in August 2018 when Davis was being investigated by the police in another domestic violence incident involving the same woman and police searched Davis’ phone. 

Ausberry told The Advocate that Davis recanted his previous admission of hitting his girlfriend when Ausberry called him immediately after receiving the text. He said this was a factor in his decision not to report the incident to the police or university authorities, though, he said, with hindsight, he may have made a different decision. 

But USA TODAY reported this week that Ausberry and LSU athletics officials admitted to the university that it is generally keeping allegations of domestic violence and sexual assault made against athletes within the athletic department instead of reporting them to the Title IX office as required. 

LSU also investigated the athletics department in 2018, according to USA TODAY,  because another woman told the university that her boss in athletics had failed to report dating problems she had with Davis in 2016, two years before he was arrested for attacking his former girlfriend.

That woman said she also went to Ausberry in 2018 after the domestic violence allegations against Davis started to surface with her personal accounts of Davis’ abuse. At the time, Ausbery told her he “didn’t want to hear anymore” and directed her to speak to another person in the athletic department, according to an interview LSU officials did with Ausberry about the incident.

Violence between Davis and his former girlfriend — the one Davis told Ausberry he had punched in the text message — escalated. Davis strangled her after he sent the text to Ausberry and eventually pleaded guilty to two counts of battery and violating a protective order. He has since been arrested again for violence against a third dating partner, though that case hasn’t gone to court yet.

Ausberry did not return a phone call or email sent by The Illuminator to him Wednesday. The Illuminator reached out over the past two weeks to all 15 members of the LSU Board of Supervisors through phone calls to their workplaces and emails sent to their university accounts asking if they had considered removing Ausberry from the LSU president selection committee. With the exception of one supervisor, all of the requests for comment were ignored.

James Williams, who joined the LSU board in 2016, picked up a cell phone call made to him by a reporter last week. Williams is not only a LSU supervisor, but he is also the chairman of the presidential selection committee on which Ausberry sits.

Williams had previously told The Advocate that Ausberry should “absolutely” serve on the committee to select the next LSU president in spite of the accusations against the athletic administrator. But when reached by phone last week, he declined to comment on Ausberry’s position on the committee, saying all inquiries of that nature had to go through the Board of Supervisors chairman Robert Dampf. 

Dampf did not respond to multiple email messages and phone calls made to his office over the last several days. On Wednesday afternoon, through an LSU spokesman, he declined to comment — on behalf of the entire Board of Supervisors — on Ausberry sitting on the selection committee. 

Ausberry hasn’t  faced any consequences for not reporting allegations sexual assault and domestic violence to the LSU’s Title IX office or to police. The university hasn’t disciplined or punished any of its staff since the first USA TODAY report came out about a month ago. 

LSU has hired a Kansas City-based law firm, Husch Blackwell, to investigate its sexual assault and domestic violence reporting practices. It’s waiting on the firm’s report — expected in February — before considering disciplinary action against its own employees.

Yet James Robinson — an LSU-Eunice professor who spoke on behalf of faculty organizations across LSU’s campuses — told the LSU Board of Supervisors earlier this month that teachers at the school were worried that Ausberry remained in a high-profile position following the recent news reports. Robinson didn’t mention Ausberry by name, but said that the faculty was concerned about a person implicated in recent news reports remaining on the presidential search committee. Ausberry is the only person who fits that description.

Having Ausberry sit on the presidential search committee could also create a conflict of interest in the short term. LSU’s interim president Tom Galligan is applying to be the university’s permanent president. Galligan could be in the awkward position of having to decide whether to discipline Ausberry over the next several months while Ausberry sits on the committee that is deciding whether to hire Galligan for the job Galligan wants.

Additionally, the next LSU president — whoever it  might be — will likely oversee any changes or reforms LSU makes to its sexual assault and domestic violence protocols — changes that could affect Ausberry and the athletic department directly.

In a press appearance with reporters earlier this month, Galligan said he would not let Ausberry’s position on the LSU president search committee influence how he handles LSU’s response to the sexual assault and domestic violence scandal. 

“I will not let my candidacy get in the way of this investigation,” Galligan said. 

But Galligan also noted that he doesn’t control who sits on the presidential committee. That decision is left up to the LSU Board of Supervisors.