F. King Alexander had not yet arrived on campus when three members of the LSU Board of Supervisors decided not to fire the school’s celebrated football coach, Les Miles, despite jaw-dropping complaints of sexual harassment.
When the freshly-minted president fetched up in Baton Rouge, he inherited a football coach so creepy that Miles was under orders not to hire female students to babysit his children and to stop being alone with them.
Alexander’s athletic director told him to fire Miles, who denied the allegations. But Alexander decided that his predecessors had resolved the issue, and he did not act.
Alexander probably regrets that decision now, since his mishandling of sexual harassment and assault complaints involving the athletic department at LSU chased after him, even after he decamped in 2020 to become president of Oregon State University. He lasted less than a year in the job, as faculty rebelled and condemned his performance managing the athletic scandals in Baton Rouge.
This week, Alexander will be succeeded at LSU by William F. Tate IV, and the new president should not make the same mistake.
Tate takes over a campus roiled by reports that key administrators systematically ignored abusive behavior by athletes toward women students, and by the widespread view that the supervisors and the interim president, Tom Galligan, were timid in punishing two administrators for their roles in the scandal.
One is Verge Ausberry, the executive deputy athletic director. Ausberry in 2018 received a text from wide receiver Drake Davis in which Davis said he had a dispute with his girlfriend and hit her; when Ausberry called Davis, the football player said he had not hit his girlfriend. Davis went on to abuse his girlfriend for several more months, breaking into her apartment and nearly strangling her one night.
The Husch Blackwell law firm, called in to investigate the Athletic Department, labeled Ausberry “not credible” in his response to their questions about the incident.
Galligan suspended Ausberry without pay for a month, and faced howls of protest on campus and in the Legislature. So he augmented the punishment, banning Ausberry from football games in 2021.
Senior Associate Athletic Director Miriam Segar made a mistake in 2016 by keeping former star running back Derrius Guice's name off a report of a rape.
“Because of this omission, when Guice was accused of subsequent misconduct by other students … this initial report was not considered or revisited," Husch Blackwell attorneys wrote. She was suspended for 21 days.
Effective this week, Ausberry and Segar will work for Tate, and it will be up to him to decide whether they can be trusted to carry on in an Athletic Department that seems to view winning football games as more important than protecting students on campus.
Tate will also supervise Scott Woodward, the athletic director who was hired by the supervisors behind Alexander’s back in 2019, according to Alexander’s account.
Woodward is close to Ausberry, and three months after he was hired, Ausberry’s salary doubled to half a million dollars, a move that Alexander said was instigated by the supervisors.
Ausberry got that raise even though LSU knew he had fumbled the Davis case and the school had been warned by East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III about widespread problems with reporting of assaults and harassment on campus.
The new athletic director has never explained that decision and he and other LSU bigwigs declined to appear before a legislative committee probing the athletic department.
When Mitch Landrieu took over at City Hall in New Orleans, his father, former Mayor Moon Landrieu, advised him that in his new job, he owned every pothole in the city.
At LSU, the potholes are in the Athletic Department and the Title IX office, and Tate now owns every one of them.
Everyone on campus, everyone in Louisiana, will be watching and hoping he is tough enough to stare down the supervisors and clean up the mess.