Editor's note: This is a discrete chapter of a larger story about LSU's struggles to put a Title IX scandal behind the university and persuade students that their safety is LSU's top priority.
LSU may have scored a star women's basketball coach in Kim Mulkey, but some question the optics of hiring her while the university is reeling from the fallout of a sexual assault scandal.
Mulkey gave her first news conference as LSU's women’s basketball coach on April 26, where she described her love of her home state of Louisiana and what brought her home after two decades and three national championships at Baylor University.
Hours before that news conference, a group of eight current and former LSU students filed a federal Title IX lawsuit against the university, alleging that LSU failed to follow the federal law that requires institutions to investigate sexual misconduct complaints and that bans them from discriminating based on gender.
A chorus of boos rang down as Joe Alleva climbed the stairs in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
Many cheered Mulkey's hire as a win for the other component of Title IX, which mandates gender equity in sports. She will out-earn most male head coaches at LSU for any sport, with her contract paying $2.5 million in her first year and rising to $3.3 million by the end of her eight-year deal.
LSU head football coach Ed Orgeron will still out-earn her by a significant margin: his base salary is $6 million, but is paid closer to $7 million annually thanks to bonuses on top of it.
But Mulkey has drawn criticism for her comments about a sexual assault scandal that engulfed Baylor in 2017. Mulkey defended Baylor then, telling reporters to “find another story to write” because “the problems that we have at Baylor are no different than the problems at any other school in America.”
Mulkey told reporters she was "tired of hearing it" when one asked about the sexual assault scandal.
"If somebody's around you, and they ever say, 'I will never send my daughter to Baylor,' you knock them right in the face," Mulkey said.
She apologized the next day, saying that she regretted her word choice, in no way meant it literally and that she sympathized with victims and was angry about how Baylor treated them.
"I hate that I used the remark about punching them in the face," Mulkey told ESPNW. "That was not literal. I was trying to make a point, to be firm in what you are saying back at them. I'm not a violent person. I apologize for the very poor choice of words."
Editor's note: This is a discrete chapter of a larger story about LSU's struggles to put a Title IX scandal behind the university and persuade…
David Ridpath, a sports management professor at Ohio University and past president of The Drake Group, an advocacy group that pushes for reform in college athletics, said that while hiring Mulkey was a blockbuster success from an athletic standpoint, the optics for LSU are not good.
“For her to say those things at Baylor and then come to a place like LSU, what are you saying?” Ridpath said. “What are you saying to victims, what are you saying to others?”
LSU Athletic Department spokesman Cody Worsham declined to comment on Mulkey’s prior remarks, saying only that LSU feels “very comfortable with her as a leader and mentor of student athletes.”
"Coach Mulkey is a talented, passionate woman who turned an athletic scholarship into championships, gold medals, a degree, and a trailblazing career in coaching, and she was ready to return home to Louisiana to help our women’s basketball program and our entire university," Worsham said.
Former LSU President F. King Alexander defended his record at LSU in a radio interview Wednesday, saying that he worked to diversify the unive…
Mulkey seemed to allude to LSU's problems during her introductory news conference.
“I didn’t just come here to win championships,” she said, “but to make an impact at an institution that needs something positive at the right time.”