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Committee chairman Sen. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, second from left, and Sen. Beth Mizell, R-Franklinton, left, listen to attorney Winston G. DeCuir Jr, LSU Vice President of Legal Affairs and General Counsel, right at witness table, who answers questions during the Senate Select Committee's third hearing on how LSU officials have handled accusations of fumbling sexual misconduct complaints, April 8.

Athletics is more important than academics to the LSU family: Board of Supervisors, staff, students, Tiger Athletic Foundation, and Gov. John Bel Edwards, although maybe not all the faculty.

Yes, you thought Edwards graduated from West Point. He cited its Honor Code while campaigning for governor in 2015.

But he was up for reelection in 2019. If you are a graduate of LSU Law School, are campaigning during the school’s successful run for the national football title, LSU lets you travel with the team and pal up with the coach, you’ll get such great photo ops that even Annapolis grads will think you’re cool.

LSU fans and Edwards supporters will be quick to defend the governor, saying that Huey Long practically owned the football team and the Tiger Band; John McKeithen was a big-time football team recruiter; Bobby Jindal was governor while the scandal was brewing but completely denies knowing anything about Les Miles’ problems. It strains credibility to believe that the Jindal-appointed board members who were aware of Miles' transgressions would not have apprised their friend the governor of the potential fallout,

Come to think of it, only Edwin W. Edwards was more interested in coeds than football.

Legislators and the media can’t seem to get enough of the growing scandal to cover up sexual harassment reported by female students. The press are interviewing and legislators questioning lawyers but not Edwards who’s one, board members but not Edwards who appoints the new ones, athletic directors but not Edwards who probably OK’d hiring of the last one.

The debacle unfolding from LSU athletics and LSU’s administration has been a feeding frenzy by the media. They have written articles about many aspects of federal probes, lawsuits, legislative meetings, more sexual conduct allegations and even asking for legislative auditors to poke around.

Finally, during a recent coronavirus news conference, Edwards was interrupted with questions about LSU. Edwards said he read the Husch Blackwell law firm’s report, called the interim president and the chairman of the LSU board insisting the report be made public and its recommendations embraced.

What about pressing Edwards on what he plans to do to clean up the mess at the state’s largest higher education institution, its flagship?

Edwards should have played a big, or at least bigger, role in cleaning up this scandal. Edwards is on TV enough about COVID-19 over the past year to have you believe he’s a doctor on “General Hospital” or a scientist from CDC. Maybe he’s just too busy for LSU affairs.

Edwards should have hauled in interim LSU President Tom Galligan demanding that actions be taken and that he be briefed frequently about developments and anticipated actions. When a governor pounds the table across from you, it is hard to pass off the blame.

Edwards should have had Athletic Director Scott Woodward and Coach Ed Orgeron in his office pressing them for every bit of information they have on this morass of misogyny and malfeasance.

Once Edwards had a feel for the origins of this disaster, he should have been in the face of his appointees on the Board of Supervisors, addressing these problems at news conferences, making demands for heads to roll and for major changes on how things are run.

Edwards shouldn’t let the LSU board get away with playing deaf, dumb, and blind on such major problems for so long. Other state higher education institutions (Oregon State, Kansas) acted immediately and terminated those formerly high-paid LSU top dogs who avoided the scandals and moved on.

But Edwards won’t act. He is part of the problem and knows it. Edwards hid in the shadows while the Senate Select Committee on Women and Children took the lead in trying to get to the bottom of these scandals.

The media should press Edwards on what he’s done to clean up this mess beyond reading about it. He should be questioned about whether he’s called on members of the board to retire if they fail to act.

That is what a leader would do. But it won’t happen — because John Bel Edwards is not a leader, he’s a talking head.

LSU’s general counsel, Winston DuCuir, the only official LSU allowed to testify before the Senate Select Committee on Women and Children, said, “LSU is going to spend whatever it takes in terms of money and time to fix these problems.”

Betcha Edwards, Woodward and Orgeron won’t let that money come from athletics. If LSU doesn’t make college football rankings of postseason Top 25 of ESPN, AP, or coaches polls like last year, heads will roll.

But no heads rolled at LSU for being 153rd in the Best National University Rankings by U.S. News & World Report for 2021. So, who cares about academics ... really?

Email Garey Forster at Garey.Forster@gmail.com.


Garey Forster is former chairman of the Labor and Industry Committee in the Louisiana House of Representatives and a former Louisiana Secretary of Labor. His column runs weekly. Email him at Garey.Forster@gmail.com.