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.
While LSU spent years keeping a sexual harassment investigation of former head football coach Les Miles a secret, university officials reacted differently when a similar matter involving LSU's former women's basketball coach came up in 2007.
LSU officials investigated sexual harassment allegations about Miles in 2013 and ultimately kept them quiet. Six years earlier, when LSU officials found evidence that Chatman was having a sexual relationship with one of her players, her lawyer said the school gave her two hours to resign or to be fired.
A chorus of boos rang down as Joe Alleva climbed the stairs in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
Chatman’s attorney, Mary Olive Pierson, argued that LSU had no policy forbidding such a relationship. A similar argument has been used to better effect by those defending their actions in the current scandal: Interim LSU President Tom Galligan has said that LSU cannot fire employees if the policies obligating them to report misconduct were murky.
But that defense didn’t spare Chatman, who had led the Lady Tigers to three consecutive Final Four appearances.
"Does anybody believe you can do this kind of stuff and not have sanctions?" Ray Lamonica, LSU’s general counsel, asked at the time. Lamonica also used general conduct clauses in NCAA bylaws and Chatman’s contract to defend LSU’s firing.
The few LSU officials made aware in 2013 of the accusations against Miles kept them secret. The Miles sexual harassment investigation, conducted by law firm Taylor Porter, never led to a full LSU Board of Supervisors public briefing or vote.
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…
That's been the subject of much controversy since the Miles allegations became public this year. Miles' attorney, Peter Ginsberg, has denied all of the allegations against him from 2013. Miles was ordered not to be alone with students and to undergo several training sessions after a student said that he kissed her twice, suggested they go to a hotel or his condo together and said he was attracted to her.
Lamonica explained in a recent interview that LSU Board of Supervisors bylaws require that the entirety of the board be apprised of “significant policy matters” — despite how the Miles matter was handled. For Chatman's case, that meant the full LSU board could have weighed in on Chatman if she hadn’t resigned in 2007.
“I did take the position that her firing could go to the Board of Supervisors if she didn’t resign, because it’s a significant policy matter,” Lamonica said.
Chatman walked away with a $160,000 settlement payout and went on to coach professional teams. She declined to comment for this story.
Former LSU President F. King Alexander, former Athletic Director Joe Alleva and a group of past and present members of LSU's Board of Supervis…
Pierson said the disparate treatment given to Chatman and Miles shows the power of football on LSU’s campus.
“That’s where the difference comes in — we’re gonna defend that football coach until the cows come home, we’re not gonna defend Pokey Chatman and those girls out there shooting hoops,” Pierson said.
Lamonica was no longer LSU's general counsel by the time the Miles case came up in 2013. Shelby McKenzie, a Taylor Porter attorney, was in the role instead.
It remains unclear to what extent the former, full LSU board knew about Miles, though at least three members were involved in the discussions about him. Former LSU Board members who knew about Miles, including Bobby Yarborough, said that former LSU President F. King Alexander was expected to tell the full board. Alexander has disputed that, as he hadn't arrived as LSU's president until the Miles inquiry was nearly finished and said he was not privy to the details of it.