Kansas Jayhawks part ways with football coach Les Miles amid allegations of misconduct at LSU

Les Miles
Head coach Les Miles of the LSU Tigers celebrates after defeating the Texas A&M Aggies 19-7 at Tiger Stadium on November 28, 2015, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

LAWRENCE, Kan.  — The University of Kansas agreed to immediately part ways with head football coach Les Miles on Monday night following back-to-back reports of past indiscretions that alleged he engaged in sexual harassment of students and created a “nightmare” employment culture while coaching at Louisiana State University.

Miles, winner of an NCAA college football championship in 2007, was hired by KU in 2018 and compiled a record of 3-18 during the first two seasons of a five-year contract that paid him $2.7 million annually. KU went winless in 2020 and won a single Big 12 Conference game during Miles’ time on campus. Miles had been fired by LSU early in the 2016 season and was out of coaching until picked up by KU.

“I am extremely disappointed for our university, fans and everyone involved with our football program,” said Jeff Long, director of athletics at KU. “There is a lot of young talent on this football team, and I have no doubt we will identify the right individual to lead this program. We need to win football games, and that is exactly what we’re going to do.”

Long, who has known Miles for decades, said details of the agreement would be released “in coming days.” A national search would be conducted for a replacement, but Mike DeBord would continue in the role of acting head coach pending selection of an interim leader for the program.

Long placed Miles on administrative leave Friday to consider how to deal with alleged misconduct at LSU dating to 2009. He said a report released by the law firm Husch Blackwell containing details of Miles’ purported effort to “sexualize the staff” at LSU would be useful as KU officials performed its due diligence. Miles denied all allegations.

Miles said in a statement that it was a “difficult day for me and for my family” and he professed a love for KU and players in the Jayhawks’ program.

“I have truly enjoyed being the head coach at KU and know that it is in a better place now than when I arrived,” Miles said. “To our student-athletes, I want you to remember that you came to play for KU and earn a degree here. So, I implore you to stay and build on what we started and do all of the things we talked about doing together. There is a bright future for all of you and for KU football.”

In 2018, Long dismissed Jayhawks football coach David Beaty to make way for Miles. Beaty’s exit led to a nasty legal battle when KU decided not to pay the remainder of the ex-coach’s salary. KU ended that contract dispute in 2020 by agreeing to a $2.55 million settlement deal with Beaty.

The football controversy surfaced while the KU men’s basketball program remained under a cloud of multiple allegations of NCAA violations, including charges of lack of institutional control and of coaching shortcomings. The case could lead to hefty sanctions applicable to KU’s program as well as coaches.

LSU’s internal investigation from 2013 was released after USA Today won a legal fight to obtain the report. Along with the Husch Blackwell investigation, the two reports chronicle alleged misconduct by Miles from 2009 until he was fired in 2016.

Also last week, The New Orleans Advocate reported Miles reached a secret settlement with a student who accused him of harassment.

Harassment allegations

The investigative reports released last week reveal allegations Miles sexually harassed students and tried to sexualize the football staff by hiring attractive blond women “with the big boobs.”

A longtime football operations employee said her “worst nightmare” happened around 2013, when LSU extended Miles’ contract. A student came to her “very upset about something that happened when she was alone” with the coach. The student asked for help in confronting Miles about the incident.

Husch Blackwell, whose report was released on Friday, interviewed a second longtime employee who was present for the meeting and recalled the student being “completely traumatized.”

“This child had a dead stare … she just kept saying, over and over, ‘You know what you did to me,’ ” the employee said.

Other witnesses interviewed by the law firm said Miles recruited and vetted women employees, including students and full-time staff. They said Miles labeled them as “a.m. and p.m. girls,” and that he described some students as looking like a “bad bowling team.”

Another individual, the report said, recalled Miles saying “many times” that he wanted blonds, not brunettes, working in the office.

“Only certain ones were allowed to be in the head coach’s office, not everyone,” an employee told the law firm. “And most of them were either blond, they were all attractive, but most of them that came through here were blond.”

One witness said the hiring practice “makes me want to vomit.”

“Every year,” the witness said, “it got a little worse and a little worse and for a while, after a while, it almost became normal that we can’t hire anybody that’s fat and ugly.”

‘Disturbing and unfair’

Over the weekend, Miles’ lawyer said the administrative leave ordered by KU was “disturbing and unfair.” Attorney Peter Ginsberg also said KU had previously been provided “significant information” about controversy involving Miles at LSU.

“To fail to recognize that a person’s career should not be compromised by unsubstantiated allegations hardly is consistent with the example an institution of higher learning should champion,” Ginsberg said.

Miles, 67, served as the head coach at LSU from 2005 to 2016, and was the subject of the investigation in 2013 that resulted in LSU issuing a letter of reprimand to Miles. He also was forbidden from hiring student employees to babysit and was prohibited from being alone with students.

His LSU teams averaged 10 wins per year in his 11 full seasons. He led LSU to bowl games in each of those 11 seasons. In 1007, LSU won the BCS national championship game. In 2001, he took over the football program at Oklahoma State University. He previously worked as the tight ends coach for the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys.

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news outlets supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: [email protected] Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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Sherman Smith
Sherman Smith has written award-winning news stories about the instability of the Kansas foster care system, misconduct by government officials, sexual abuse, technology, education, and the Legislature. He spent 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal, where he started on the copy desk, then oversaw digital operations, was the managing editor and reported from the Statehouse. A lifelong Kansan, he graduated from Emporia State University in 2004 as a Shepherd Scholar with a degree in English.
Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International. He has been recognized for investigative reporting on Kansas government and politics. He won the Kansas Press Association’s Victor Murdock Award six times. The William Allen White Foundation honored him four times with its Burton Marvin News Enterprise Award. The Kansas City Press Club twice presented him its Journalist of the Year Award and more recently its Lifetime Achievement Award. He earned an agriculture degree at Kansas State University and grew up on a small dairy and beef cattle farm in Missouri. He is an amateur woodworker and drives Studebaker cars.