While LSU poured untold resources into the pursuit of national football championships, campus leaders for years ignored warnings that LSU did not have the proper systems in place to handle sexual misconduct complaints, that former head football coach Les Miles was sexually harassing students and that assault survivors were losing faith in the system, a law firm’s investigation revealed Friday.

The 150-page report from law firm Husch Blackwell, which includes 100 additional pages of exhibits, is a damning indictment of LSU’s many failures in protecting its students.

Among its three key findings: LSU did not follow federal laws, best practices or even its own policies in cases of reported sexual misconduct; LSU’s athletic department incidents were not properly reported; and LSU has never appropriately staffed its Title IX office, which investigates such allegations.

Interim LSU President Tom Galligan released the report Friday to the LSU board of supervisors, describing it as “hard to hear and even harder to read” and pledging to right the many wrongs it illuminated. Galligan placed two athletic department employees on brief unpaid suspensions Friday, and he said LSU would adopt all 17 recommendations in the Husch Blackwell report.

“Perhaps most troubling of all the report’s findings is the understanding that, whether through our actions or inactions, our institution betrayed the very people we are sworn to protect,” Galligan said in a message to LSU students and employees. “We are committed to bringing about real, concerted change that will make us a better, safer university moving forward.”

LSU commissioned the investigation last November, agreeing to pay Husch Blackwell up to $100,000, after USA Today released a deep dive into LSU’s failures related to several high-profile sexual assault cases on campus. The resulting document does not pull punches.

Scott Schneider, the attorney who led the investigation, told LSU board members Friday that it’s important they act to make campus safer in the future. He also described the toll that botching such investigations can take.

"When we get a report and we don't handle it well, what we do is exacerbate the trauma of the situation," Schneider said.

The report’s 17 recommendations include adding staff to LSU’s Title IX office, moving the office out from under LSU’s general counsel’s office, improving record keeping, adding targeted training for the LSU athletic department, clarifying mandatory reporting requirements and regularly measuring the system’s effectiveness.

The report also says that the LSU Police Department has incorrectly interpreted laws about when police can share sexual assault and violence complaints with LSU’s Title IX office, and that LSUPD should be sharing those reports.

Stone Cox, the LSU student government president who has the student seat on the board of supervisors, questioned Friday whether the university is going far enough in responding to the report.

“I’m afraid that some of the students will view some of the punishments made today as LSU repeating history for not holding individuals properly accountable,” Cox said.

LSU’s Tigers Against Sexual Assault student group already planned a sit-in for March 8 at the LSU Football Operation Center over the lack of firings.

But LSU board chairman Robert Dampf said that the widespread, systemic failures make it difficult to pinpoint blame on any individual person.

“We clearly had a failure of leadership and a failure of resources,” Dampf said.

LSU sports news in your inbox

If you're a Tiger fan you won't want to miss this newsletter. Sign up today.

The Husch Blackwell report took a deep look at several incidents, including how LSU handled reports of sexual assaults from former star running back Derrius Guice, domestic violence from former wide receiver Drake Davis, reports of sexual harassment by Miles and dozens of other complaints involving other students and athletes.

In some cases, LSU took great pains to keep the bad behavior secret. When LSU engaged the local law firm Taylor Porter to conduct a sexual harassment investigation into Miles in 2013, for example, the university kept no file on the investigation and intentionally stored it off-site, Husch Blackwell found.

While the report was full of damaging information, it rehabilitated the reputations of some LSU officials, including LSU tennis coaches Mike and Julia Sell — who have been the subject of much criticism over the past few months. Husch Blackwell could not find evidence that the Sells failed to report allegations of sexual assault or domestic violence involving players on the team. In fact, the firm unearthed messages between the coaches and players that showed the Sells’ support for their players as they underwent difficult circumstances.

Some of those facing criticism in the Husch Blackwell review are long gone from LSU.

“He mentioned lack of leadership. Some of that leadership is no longer with LSU,” said LSU Board member Randy Morris, of Oak Grove. “I think those people need to take some blame for this also. They’re not our employees anymore, so we can’t discipline them, but they are responsible for some of the action that took place.”

Deep into the report, Husch Blackwell described the LSU football program’s success in winning the 2019 national championship as “a remarkable achievement and shows what the university can accomplish with appropriate resources and personnel.” The report explains that the program employs dozens of staffers, plus a plethora of student workers.

In contrast, the report LSU’s Title IX office is staffed with one coordinator and one lead investigator, for a campus of 34,000 students. Husch Blackwell also noted that LSU chose “an exceptionally cumbersome” process for handling Title IX complaints.

And LSU officials have been warned repeatedly over years that those areas of the university were understaffed and under-resourced. When LSU hired Title IX coordinator Jennie Stewart in 2016, she started sounding alarm bells.

Stewart told LSU administrators that she needed more resources “to avoid a bevy of potential harms including “litigation, damages, reputation costs, lost enrollment, [unfavorable] media, harm to folks who’ve chosen LSU,” Husch Blackwell found.

“While we are critical throughout this report of the way in which the Title IX Office handled some individual cases, it is difficult to imagine anyone being successful in an office with such vast responsibilities but such limited resources,” the investigation says.

Another criticism of the Title IX office that Husch Blackwell lodged was the frequency with which students were given lenient punishments for engaging in sexual misconduct.

Both LSU internal audits and athletics risk assessment reports further found problems along the way. And in 2019, LSU also hired former U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite and his firm, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP to conduct a secret probe of how LSU's Title IX policies were working in regard to the athletics department. Husch Blackwell determined that that report “provided an overly optimistic picture.”

However, Husch Blackwell highlighted a few bright spots. One of those was LSU’s Lighthouse Program, which supports those who have experienced sexual violence and misconduct.

“It is helpful to note that in our review of the case files provided and in conversations with community members, the Lighthouse Program and its director, Susan Bareis, were universally praised as excellent — but also under-resourced and potentially underutilized — resources,” Husch Blackwell noted.

Investigative reporting is more essential than ever, which is why we’ve established the Louisiana Investigative Journalism Fund, a non-profit supported by our readers.

To learn more, please click here.