Sam Hanna Jr.

We have to assume it was just a coincidence.

Or a well-orchestrated ploy.

On Monday LSU announced the hiring of Hall of Fame women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey amid so much fanfare that one could have been led to believe Gandhi had landed at the Baton Rouge airport to free the oppressed among us. Meanwhile, across town at about the same time, seven young ladies sued LSU including a host of university officials in federal court over allegations they were subjected to sexual assault while they were students at the Ole War Skule and that LSU officials failed to do anything about it.

The lawsuit accuses LSU of violating the Title IX law, which prohibits institutions from discriminating on the basis of sex. Largely based on the findings of a blistering third-party investigation into how LSU handled sexual assault and harassment complaints filed by students, the lawsuit is chock full of details that could leave one wondering whether LSU was operated by a horde of thugs for the past decade. Perhaps that’s why the lawsuit accused LSU of violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, otherwise known as RICO.

Mulkey's grand rollout at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center was reminiscent of a war hero's homecoming, which seemed a bit strange since Mulkey starred on the hardwood at Louisiana Tech — not LSU — in the early 1980s. But hey, I suppose it's a big deal for LSU to lure a hall of famer to campus to resurrect an athletic program that doesn't generate enough revenues to pay its own bills. For what it's worth, Mulkey will be paid about $2.5 million annually, or roughly the same amount of money LSU pays men's basketball coach Will Wade.

The brouhaha for Mulkey at the The PMAC was such a big deal that Gov. John Bel Edwards was on hand. Funny how the governor turns out for events at LSU when something positive occurs, but he's as quiet as a church mouse whenever students speak up about being sexually assaulted or harassed on the main campus in Red Stick or at the medical school in Shreveport.

If you've been under the impression LSU has been engaged in somewhat of a public relations campaign of late to keep the public's mind off the ever-present sex scandal, you might be on to something. Just last week, interim LSU President Tom Galligan announced he had withdrawn from being considered for the job on a permanent basis. A day or so later, the search committee that's charged with selecting a new president at LSU released the names of the finalists for the post, which included Jim Henderson, the widely regarded president of the University of Louisiana System, and Jay Dardenne, currently the Commissioner of Administration for the governor. In the midst of it all, LSU publicly fired the Baton Rouge law firm that has represented the university for decades. Make no mistake. LSU fired the Taylor Porter law firm to shift the blame for the sex scandal from LSU officials to the lawyers who advised the university along the way.

Those three announcements alone were pretty effective in diverting the public's — as well as the media's — attention from all of the sordid shenanigans at Louisiana's flagship university. Think about it, and bear in mind that LSU officials knew the press — namely The Advocate — would be forced to cover the smokescreens in lieu of airing out more of LSU's dirty laundry.

Sam Hanna Jr. can be reached by phone at 318-805-8158 or e-mail at samhannajr@samhannajr.com.

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