Article By: USA Today
By: Kenny Jacoby, Nancy Armour and Jessica Luther
At the height of his fame as Louisiana State University’s head football coach, Les Miles was accused of texting female students, taking them to his condo alone, making them feel uncomfortable and, on at least one occasion, kissing a student and suggesting they go to a hotel after telling her he could help her career, according to an internal investigative report released by LSU on Thursday.
The investigation, done by law firm Taylor Porter on behalf of LSU in 2013, did not find that Miles had sexual relationships with any of the women. But it found his behavior inappropriate. Miles strongly denied kissing the girl, according to the report. He said that he did nothing wrong and was simply mentoring young women at the university.
Miles also was accused by athletic department staff of saying that the female student workers who helped the football team lure top recruits needed to be attractive, blonde and fit, according to the investigative report. Existing student employees who did not meet this criteria should be given fewer hours or terminated, the report details.
Miles’ attorney, Peter Ginsberg, said the coach continues to deny the allegations, and hopes the release of the report puts an end to the “baseless, inaccurate media reports.”
“As the report concludes, the allegation that Coach Miles attempted to kiss the woman was supported by no evidence and warranted no discipline: `We do not believe under existing law and the terms of the contract there is cause to discipline and/or terminate’ Coach Miles,” Ginsberg’s statement said.
But that mischaracterizes the findings of the report, which said “we are unable to determine what occurred” in Miles' car, where the woman said Miles had kissed her twice. Moreover, as a result of the investigation’s findings, LSU issued Miles a letter of reprimand and required him to sign forms stating that he had read and understood the school’s policies.
The university also ordered him to stop hiring student employees to babysit, cease being alone with them, and attend eight, one-hour sessions with an attorney and pay for it out of his own pocket.
If Miles repeated his behavior, the school said in the letter, he would lose his job and violate his contract.
The allegations against Miles – now head coach at the University of Kansas – were first made public after USA TODAY sued for the records in January. LSU initially refused to release the records and Miles intervened in USA TODAY’s lawsuit, asserting his reputation would be ruined if the report was made public. Miles dropped his bid to keep the records sealed, with his lawyer saying its release was necessary to defend himself against negative media attention.
In 2013, Miles and LSU took steps to ensure the records remained secret, according to a letter released with the investigative report. In it, attorneys for LSU tell Miles that should anyone request it, the school would fight the release in court.
The internal investigation into Miles is the latest discovery by USA TODAY, which has revealed widespread mishandling of sexual misconduct allegations by LSU’s athletic department and broader administration. USA TODAY’s reporting prompted LSU to hire outside law firm Husch Blackwell in November to audit its handling of dozens of sexual misconduct cases since 2016.
The Husch Blackwell report, which is slated to be released publicly on Friday, is expected to reveal even more about Miles’ conduct during his time at LSU, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the probe.
“We’re thrilled this important document has been released,” said Scott Sternberg, attorney for USA TODAY, referring to the 2013 report. “We think the judge’s redactions were judicious and appropriately reveal to the concerned public how LSU handled these allegations against Louisiana’s most famous name and highest-paid state employee.”
The student worker who told investigators that Miles had kissed her said Miles took interest in her career. He suggested that he could help her and asked her to put her number in his phone under an alias and said that he would do the same.
They texted each other and arranged for a time to meet again. At some point, the two met off campus and she got into his car and drove around. During the ride, the student told investigators, Miles suggested “that they go to a hotel together and mentioned his condo as another meeting place. He also complimented her on her appearance and said he was attracted to her.”
Investigators wrote they were not able to determine what happened between Miles and the student in the car. Miles denied kissing her. But even if they were to accept Miles’ version of events, investigators wrote, “it appears that he has shown poor judgment.”
‘One of the most successful coaches’ Miles served as LSU’s head football coach from 2005 to 2016. He led the Tigers to the national championship game twice, winning it in 2007. In 2011, several organizations, including The Associated Press, named him the National Coach of the Year.
In January 2013, LSU awarded him a two-year contract extension that increased his salary to $4.3 million per year, making him the fourth-highest-paid college football coach in the country at the time.
"Les Miles is one of the most successful coaches in America and he has the LSU program in position to compete for championships each and every year in the most dominant football conference in the country," LSU athletic director Joe Alleva said then in a statement. "He recruits at an elite level, his players graduate and he is a respected member of the community. We are proud he will lead the LSU football program for the long-term future."
The student worker who said Miles kissed her lodged a complaint with athletic department officials one month later.
The school fired Miles in 2016, after LSU got off to a 2-2 start. Miles’ attorneys said in court documents that his firing was “wholly unrelated” to the allegations in the report.
The University of Kansas, the state’s flagship public college, hired Miles in November 2018. He was paid $3.3 million in 2020, making him the highest-paid public employee in the state, according to 24/7 Wall Street.
Kansas spokesman Dan Beckler told USA TODAY last week that the school did not know about the allegations when Miles was hired. On Thursday, Beckler said the school was reviewing the newly released report and awaiting the findings of the Husch Blackwell investigation.
“Due to the ongoing litigation, KU was not provided a copy of the Taylor Porter report prior to its publication in the USA Today article," Beckler told USA TODAY. "We are in the process of reviewing the 34-page document. We are also aware that LSU is issuing an additional report tomorrow, and we will wait to comment further until we have reviewed both documents.”
According to the investigation report, which replaces references to Miles’ name with “XXX,” Miles became more “hands on” about matters in the athletic department after leading LSU to the national title, “including the student employees.” The report says that Miles was involved in both recruiting and interviewing female student employees in 2012, and made it known they should have a certain “look. (attractive, blond, fit.)”
“He also made their supervisors feel that existing student employees who did not meet this criteria should be given fewer hours or terminated.”
But Miles’ interest in some employees extended beyond their hiring, according to women interviewed by the investigators. The student workers who reported Miles said he offered to help them get jobs in the industry, telling one she might be able to work for him “on his personal business” after graduation.
One worker, who is referred to as Student No. 2, along with her father, reported Miles to the student’s supervisor, LSU director of football recruiting Sharon Lewis in February 2013. Miles had started sending her Facebook messages, the woman told investigators.
The student and Miles exchanged phone numbers and met up later, driving around in Miles’ car as he complimented her appearance, suggested they go to a hotel and then kissing her twice, the student said.
Miles told the investigator the purpose of this meeting was to “talk with her more about her career aspirations and to tell her about a sports agent he had seen on a recent trip.” He admitted driving her alone in his car but denied kissing her.
While the investigator could not make a determination of what happened, she criticized Miles’ behavior.
“However, there can be little doubt that the conduct, if true, is inappropriate and unacceptable,” the report says. “Even accepting XXX’s version of events, it appears that he has shown poor judgment in placing himself (and the student employee) in a situation in which the student employee might be uncomfortable and/or he can be subject to such complaint.”
Prior to Student No. 2’s complaint, another student worker, referred to as Student No. 1, reported in the summer of 2012 that she had a phone call and other interactions with Miles that made her uncomfortable. The student said she became concerned when Miles had asked her to babysit his children, but then changed his plans and asked her to join them to go watch a movie.
This student had also stayed at Miles’ condo one night, at Miles’ wife’s suggestion, the report says.
The report also says that Student No. 1 told Student No. 2 that Miles had “cornered” and touched her, but she denied this during her interview with the investigator. Student No. 2 maintained that Miles had subjected her to “unwanted touching.”
As a result of Student No. 1’s concerns, Alleva met with Miles and barred him from having any one-on-one meetings or interactions with student employees, and from texting or calling them. The athletic department also conducted various sexual harassment trainings, and Miles was told that student employees could not babysit for him.
The report says Miles also texted at least one other former student employee using a personal phone that LSU had no knowledge of or way to monitor. The student said she wasn’t uncomfortable with it, though she found it unusual. The investigator found it “troubling,” she wrote, that other department employees addressed the situation by telling the student to ignore the texts; the employees “implied that others had similar experiences,” the report says.
The investigator wrote that she interviewed other students and supervisors, but not every student working with Student No. 2, so as not to jeopardize her confidentiality and because she “did not have any indication that any other student employee has had a similar experience.” LSU also did not have other similar complaints against Miles, the investigator said.
Still, investigators said remedial steps should be taken to address Miles’ “problematic behaviors.” This included a written directive prohibiting him from having one-to-one contact with student employees and requiring him to use his LSU-issued cell phone for communication with employees. She also recommended Miles attend counseling “to help him understand how to establish appropriate boundaries with students and student employees.”
LSU ordered Miles to turn over a list of all the phone numbers he owned.
Miles’ attorneys were “very reluctant” that there be any documentation of the investigation or its findings.
“However, because past attempts to sensitize XXX to the consequences of his behavior have been unsuccessful, we recommend that there be such a written directive,” the investigator wrote.