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Verge Ausberry is LSU's executive deputy athletic director and executive director of external relations. 

LSU executive deputy athletic director Verge Ausberry has stepped down from LSU's presidential search committee amid allegations that he did not report an accusation of domestic violence two years ago after a football player admitted hitting his girlfriend to him.

Ausberry, a high-ranking LSU official who is well known for his service on various state and governmental boards, resigned from the committee on Thursday after it held a meeting to discuss advertising for the president’s job. He sent a brief letter to James Williams, the committee’s chairman and an LSU Board of Supervisors member, to make the announcement.

"I appreciate having had the opportunity to participate and, obviously, remain completely supportive of your most vital efforts, and will provide any outside assistance you might find appropriate," Ausberry wrote.

LSU spokesman Ernie Ballard said Ausberry's withdrawal was voluntary and that it was his own decision. Ausberry delivered a presentation during the Thursday meeting about community outreach efforts to determine what qualities people are looking for in a future LSU president. He did not respond Thursday to a message from The Advocate about his decision to resign. 

Ausberry has been a central figure amid controversies stemming from students who say that LSU failed to properly report allegations of domestic violence or sexual assault, including allegations that involved football players.

In 2018, when LSU Police were collecting evidence and conducting interviews over LSU wide receiver Drake Davis’ abuse of his girlfriend, police discovered that Davis had texted Ausberry in April of that year about one of those incidents.

“She's trying to go to compliance for me hitting her, she's trying to get me kick (sic) off the team,” Davis texted Ausberry on April 14, 2018, according to the police report. “I went over there to get my stuff. She got mad that I wouldn't talk to her. She started to hit me. And I hit her In the stomach. (which is not good) and I walked out.”

Ausberry told The Advocate that after he received the text message, he called Davis, who recanted the confession. Ausberry said that he did not think he was required to report it to LSU’s Title IX office — which investigates sexual misconduct, dating violence and similar concerns — because he was unsure of the girlfriend’s enrollment status at the time. He also did not report it to police or anyone else.

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Jade Lewis, who has publicly identified herself as the woman who Davis abused at LSU, left the school to become a professional tennis player and then re-enrolled between 2017 and 2018.

But regardless of her enrollment status, experts say that Ausberry was still required to report what Davis told him to Title IX investigators, and that he also should have reported it to police.

Davis grew increasingly violent toward Lewis throughout 2018, police records show, and another athletic department official filed a Title IX complaint that spring after Lewis sought medical care for a fractured rib after Davis punched her. Davis was not arrested until four months after he sent that text message to Ausberry. He later pleaded guilty to battery and violating a protective order.

Ausberry’s continued role on the presidential search committee has raised questions, especially because Interim LSU President Tom Galligan has said he hopes to take over the job on a permanent basis. While Galligan is responsible for overseeing LSU’s handling of the allegations involving Ausberry and several others, Ausberry was also in a position to determine whether Galligan could get the permanent job.

Asked about the conflict of interest Dec. 7, Galligan said he had no control over the search committee’s makeup.

“I would not let my candidacy in any way get in the way of this investigation or achieving justice in this case,” Galligan said.

And when the LSU Board of Supervisors met Dec. 4, the LSU-Eunice faculty senate chairman told board members that faculty was concerned about how the board was handling the controversy.

“Faculty are extremely concerned about the long-term impact of the continuing negative publicity surrounding the Title IX allegations,” said James W. Robinson, chair of the faculty senate at LSU-E. “This is confounded by the continued presence of those involved in high public profile positions, including the LSU Presidential Search Committee.”

 

Email Andrea Gallo at agallo@theadvocate.com