Women matter more than football. It’s time for LSU to act like it.

By: - March 12, 2021 7:00 am

Drake Davis #14 of the LSU Tigers catches the ball for a touchdown during the second half of a game against the Syracuse Orange at Tiger Stadium on September 23, 2017, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

For a scandal that happened at LSU, the University of Kansas has fired more people than LSU has. And if it’s left up to interim LSU President Tom Galligan, KU has fired more people than LSU will fire. The multiple offenses that occurred at LSU and the university’s refusal to hold perpetrators and enablers accountable is embarrassing for the campus and the state of Louisiana. But more importantly, it sends a signal to women that LSU cares little for their safety, and it sends a signal to men that harassing, raping and striking women is a misdemeanor at LSU — if it even rises to that.

The University of Kansas “parted ways” with its football coach Les Miles on Monday. Miles should have been fired from the same position at LSU in 2013 when officials realized he had tried to kiss a young woman who worked in LSU’s Athletics Department and that they needed to keep him away from all the other women student workers in the department.

And according to a report released last week detailing LSU’s systematic indifference to sexual harassment, sexual assault and domestic violence on campus, Miles would have been fired — if then president King Alexander had listened to his Athletics Director Joe Alleva, who accurately predicted the outrage that would erupt once the public found out that LSU had kept Miles on even though they knew that they couldn’t trust him around young women.

Making the case for Miles’ termination in an email to Alexander, 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.”

Officials at Kansas leaped into action when the investigative report by the Husch Blackwell law firm was submitted to the LSU Board of Supervisors. The school’s athletic director put Miles on administrative leave that day and fired him Monday. And after the athletic director had fired Miles, Kansas fired the athletic director for having hired Miles in the first place.

Miles is long gone from LSU, but there are people on campus who could and should still be held accountable for not reporting alleged crimes against women perpetrated by LSU football players.  Executive Deputy Athletic Director Verge Ausberry did nothing when football player Drake Davis sent him a text that he’d hit his girlfriend, and Senior Associate Athletic Director Miriam Segar didn’t promptly report sexual assault allegations made against former star running back Derrius Guice.

Galligan suspended Ausberry for a month without pay and Segar three weeks without pay.

On Monday, a group called Tigers Against Sexual Assault gathered around the Football Operations Center on campus and demanded that the two be fired. That sentiment was echoed at the Louisiana Capitol Wednesday by the Louisiana Senate Select Committee on Women and Children.

At the end of a 10-hour meeting the members of the committee released a statement calling it “inexcusable and inexplicable” that the students who were harassed or assaulted weren’t properly supported.

“From the minimal disciplinary actions taken with regard to the employees held responsible for the universities’ failure to provide protection and remedies for the victims of sexual abuse, the committee can only conclude that the university remains tone deaf not only to these victims, but to all of the women of Louisiana who demand that the wrong be set right.”

The contrast between KU’s response and LSU’s comes with a necessary caveat. Miles remains the second winningest football coach in LSU’s history, and at the time Alleva was suggesting he be fired, he had an .801 win percentage. At Kansas, he had a 3-18 record, that is, a 0.142 win percentage. We don’t know what Kansas would have done if Miles was winning. If he was forcing himself on young women working on campus, his win-loss record shouldn’t matter.

But if there’s one thing we know about Division I football and about LSU football in particular, that record always matters.

“My blood is boiling right now on this issue,” Sen. Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell, said at Wednesday’s committee meeting. “I would be worried as a mom to send my children to college right now.”

We should appreciate Hewitt using the word “children” and not “daughters” because neither young women nor young men need to be in an environment where they see men their age and older consistently getting away with victimizing women.

Women matter more than the football team. Women matter even more than a coach who’s brought Baton Rouge a national championship.  

It’s time for LSU to show that they do.

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Jarvis DeBerry
Jarvis DeBerry

Jarvis DeBerry, former editor of the Louisiana Illuminator, spent 22 years at The Times-Picayune (and later NOLA.com) as a crime and courts reporter, an editorial writer, columnist and deputy opinions editor. He was on the team of Times-Picayune journalists awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service after that team’s coverage of Hurricane Katrina and the deadly flood that followed. In addition to the shared Pulitzer, DeBerry has won awards from the Louisiana Bar Association for best trial coverage and awards from the New Orleans Press Club, the Louisiana/ Mississippi Associated Press and the National Association of Black Journalists for his columns. A collection of his Times-Picayune columns, “I Feel to Believe” was published by the University of New Orleans Press in September 2020.