Sam Hanna Jr.

All is not well at the Ole War Skule.

LSU officials unveiled a bombshell report roughly two weeks ago that disclosed incidents of rape, dating violence and sexual harassment that may or may not have been committed by LSU athletes apparently were handled very poorly by the people at LSU who were in charge of overseeing such matters. The 148-page report was put together by the Husch Blackwell law firm of Kansas City, Missouri. LSU hired the law firm last year to determine whether the university had done an adequate job or had erred in handling sexual harassment claims logged by students against athletes.

Husch Blackwell had much to work with and in the process of investigating whether LSU athletic officials may have covered up wrongdoing by high-profile football players, the firm discovered that former football coach Les Miles had been accused of sexual harassment himself and on at least two occasions then-LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva recommended that Miles be fired for cause. Alleva was ignored, and Miles weaseled out of the sexual harassment complaint on the heels of another investigation conducted by the Baton Rouge law firm Taylor Porter.

It bears noting that Taylor Porter advised LSU officials that Miles' behavior did not necessarily constitute sexual harassment and that LSU did not have grounds to kick Miles to the curb.

At the center of this mess is former LSU running back Derrius Guice, who enjoyed a prolific career at Catholic High School in Baton Rouge before his playing days at LSU where he shined once Leonard Fournette moved on to the pros. Former LSU receiver Drake Davis plays predominately in this sordid affair, too. Davis arrived on the LSU campus as a promising prospect, but his career flamed out after he was arrested for beating up his girlfriend. He later pled guilty and was placed on probation.

Davis, it turns out, had a benefactor. His name is Baton Rouge businessman Jim Bernhard, who once owned Shaw Industries and now operates a very successful capital investment firm. Simply stated, Bernhard is a very wealthy man and a big-time LSU supporter. He's about to get wealthier, too, since one of his companies landed a contract with LSU to build a new power plant on the university's campus.

It's not clear why Bernhard took Davis under his wings, but he did and that connection may have played a role in LSU executive deputy athletic director Verge Ausberry looking the other way when Davis admitted in a text message to him that he had hit his girlfriend. Ausberry should have reported the incident to the appropriate people at LSU — specifically the university's Title IX office — but he didn't do it. Husch Blackwell's report admonished Ausberry for his actions in handling the Davis incident and went so far as to say Ausberry was not entirely forthcoming when he spoke to investigators.

To date, Ausberry and senior associate athletic director Miriam Segar are the only two LSU officials who have been punished following the disclosure of Husch Blackwell's report. Ausberry was suspended for 30 days without pay while Segar was sent home for three weeks without pay.

It's fairly obvious to the naked eye that Guice's arrest in Virginia on sexual assault charges prompted at least one young woman to go public about the difficulties she experienced in dealing with LSU officials after she accused Guice of acting in a manner that should have resulted in him being arrested and getting his ass kicked off the football team. That didn't happen. Instead, Guice was shielded from any fallout and eventually was drafted by the Washington Redskins in the second round of the 2018 draft. It was while he was associated with the Redskins that Guice was arrested for sexual assault.

There are scores of individuals who do not feel LSU has taken appropriate action to right the wrongs of what occurred just a few years ago. They have a valid argument.

Except for Ausberry and Segar, no one who played a prominent role in ignoring complaints of rape and sexual violence against LSU athletes is still employed by the university. Alleva was fired and replaced by Scott Woodward, who inherited this catastrophe but who now is responsible for cleaning up a problem he did not create. Miles was fired after getting off to a 2-2 start in the 2016 football season and was replaced by Ed Orgeron, who guided the Fighting Tigers to a National Championship in 2019. Miles eventually landed at the University of Kansas, which promptly fired Miles once his secretive settlement over the sexual harassment complaint at LSU was made public in the Husch Blackwell report. F. King Alexander, who was president of LSU while much of this mess occurred, left the university for Oregon State, whose board of trustees was scheduled to meet Tuesday night to decide whether to fire Alexander.

The only path forward for LSU is to put the pieces in place to prevent anything like what occurred with Guice and Davis and Miles from ever happening again. That's all LSU can do.

Firing Ausberry would accomplish squat, and the longer those concerned about sexual harassment at LSU belabor the point, the longer it will be before LSU can adequately do what it needs to do to ensure young women can get an education at LSU without fear of being accosted by a football player whose behavior will be excused because he runs fast or he's close to someone who carries a big stick. Or someone who possesses a 10-pound checkbook.

Make no mistake. LSU cannot afford anymore scandal.

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

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