LSU head football Coach Ed Orgeron and Athletics Director Scott Woodward will not appear in person before women lawmakers in the Louisiana Legislature this week to talk about the ongoing sexual and domestic violence scandal at the university. The problems have centered, in part, on how the Athletics Department has handled allegations made against football players and former football coach Les Miles.
Instead, Orgeron and Woodward sent written statements to the Louisiana Senate Select Committee on Women & Children, which is holding its third hearing focused on sexual misconduct and domestic violence at LSU Thursday.
Lawmakers wanted to talk to Orgeron in person after hearing from Gloria Scott two weeks ago at a previous hearing. Scott, a senior citizen who works at the Superdome, said she spoke to Orgeron personally after she accused former LSU football star Derrius Guice of sexually harassing her during his final year with LSU. The coach downplayed Guice’s actions in a phone conversation Orgeron and Scott had, she said.
The head of the committee, Sen. Regina Barrow, called Orgeron’s decision to not appear at the hearing in person troubling. In addition to Scott, the committee has heard hours of testimony from other women — mostly former LSU students who worked in the Athletics Department or were women athletes — about sexual misconduct and domestic violence from football players.
“Coach Orgeron and all those involved owe it to those ladies to stop with this dismissive behavior and own up to what occurred, taking responsibility for the actions that took place and the cover up that followed,” Barrow wrote.
In his statement to the committee, Orgeron said he never spoke to Scott, but “me speaking to Ms. Scott directly or not, does not change the fact that what happened to Ms. Scott in 2017 is unequivocally wrong.”
Scott told her side of the story to lawmakers on March 26.
In December 2017, Scott said she was working at the Superdome during a high school football event when Guice and other young men approached her. She said she recognized Guice right away. He was a star on LSU’s football team at the time.
Scott said Guice approached her with a group of young men and said: “I want your body. I want you to f—- me.” He then grabbed his genitals, Scott told the women lawmakers. She said Guice frightened her at the time.
Orgeron said Scott’s testimony troubled him when he watched it.
“I was deeply upset when I watched the video of Ms. Scott’s testimony, as it was the first time that I heard all of the details of her encounter with Mr. Guice,” Orgeron wrote in his statement. “I am devastated that she was talked to in such a vulgar and inappropriate manner, and I applaud her courage to provide her statements to the Committee.”
Orgeron said when an athletics department representative told him that Guice had disrespected an older woman, he brought Guice into his office to call Scott and apologize. However, an unidentified man answered the phone and said Scott didn’t want an apology, but instead wanted Guice suspended from the 2018 Citrus Bowl held on New Year’s Day that year.
“The conversation ended, as I was not prepared to suspend a student-athlete for a game without a discussion with the University and obtaining more thorough information,” Orgeron wrote.
The Advocate | Times-Picayune reported that New Orleans youth basketball coach Clevon Williams asked LSU Athletics for $100,000 on behalf of Scott to stay quiet about Guice’s alleged harassment. Athletics officials never paid Williams the money and Scott said she didn’t tell Williams to make such a request. Williams asked for the money on his own, she said.
Woodward also provided a written statement to the Louisiana Senate Select Committee on Women & Children ahead of Thursday’s meeting.
Woodward said the athletics department has already “implemented a number of initiatives designed to support survivors, prevent sexual and domestic violence, improve reporting and transform the mission of LSU Athletics from compliance to culture change” including “the formation of a council on sexual and domestic violence, student-athlete-driven initiatives to support survivors and promote awareness and prevention of sexual and domestic violence, an investment in personnel and training and enhanced engagement with community experts.”
“Our commitment to change will be more than a statement,” Woodward said in the statement. “It will be backed by action, with input from survivors, advocates and the community.”
Woodward sat through a previous, eight-hour hearing with women lawmakers in late March on LSU’s scandal. He was present for Scott’s testimony to the legislators about Guice’s harassment, but never called to speak to legislators directly. The hearing ended late into a Friday evening, with the understanding from at least some legislators that Woodward would return to testify at a future date. He has decided to send written testimony instead.