KU, Les Miles agree to part ways following sexual harassment allegations at LSU

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Story updated at 10:07 p.m.

The University of Kansas announced late Monday that it and now-former football coach Les Miles had agreed to part ways, effective immediately.

The announcement comes after weeks of allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct during his tenure at Louisiana State University culminated Friday in an independent 148-page report stating Miles’ actions left one student “completely traumatized” and that as early as 2013, top university brass recommended he be terminated. 

KU Athletics said in a press release issued just before 10 p.m. that terms of the separation agreement would be released in the coming days and that a national search for a new head coach would begin immediately.

Kansas’ fifth football coach since the 2009 season, Miles is now the latest in a disastrous 12-year run for the program that has compiled a record in that time of 21-108. Miles, the sixth-winningest active coach in college football, was unable to generate the same type of success he’d had at Oklahoma State University and LSU, and generated a meager 3-18 record in his two seasons coaching the Jayhawks.   

“I am extremely disappointed for our university, fans and everyone involved with our football program,” KU Director of Athletics Jeff Long said in Monday’s statement. “We will begin the search for a new head coach immediately with an outside firm to assist in this process. We need to win football games, and that is exactly what we’re going to do.”

After rumors abounded over the weekend that Miles would be terminated as KU’s coach, the two parties appear to have reached a compromise, as the 67-year-old coach also gave a statement before departing the program.

“This is certainly a difficult day for me and for my family. I love this university and the young men in our football program. I have truly enjoyed being the head coach at KU and know that it is in a better place now than when I arrived,” Miles said. “To our student athletes … I implore you to stay and build on what we started and do all of the things we talked about doing together. There is a bright future for all of you and for KU football.”

Reports a pervasive mishandling of sexual misconduct reports at LSU first came to light in November, when a trio of USA Today reporters detailed how the university and its athletics department mishandled reports of sexual violence in 2016 and 2017 involving a star player on the football team. 

Miles, who was fired by LSU not in 2013 when his actions were alleged to have taken place — but a handful of games into the 2016 season — has denied all allegations against him, and Kansas Athletics officials said they were unaware of the incidents when they hired Miles in 2018. 

In a statement late Friday, Long put Miles on administrative leave pending the university’s own review of the coach’s conduct at LSU. Friday was the first time KU officials saw the 148-page report, as well as a separate report LSU released earlier in the week, Long said.

Before coming to KU in July 2018, Long served as the athletics director at the University of Arkansas — which competes in the same conference as LSU — for almost a decade. Long’s tenure at Arkansas overlapped almost exactly with former LSU athletics director Joe Alleva, and it’s likely the two would have worked together closely and spoken frequently given the nature of college athletics.

A KU Athletics spokesperson did not answer questions from The Lawrence Times about whether Long spoke with Alleva prior to hiring Miles to coach the Jayhawks or whether Long would be involved in the university’s own review of Miles’ conduct.

The lengthy report from Husch Blackwell, a nationwide firm contracted by LSU to audit the school’s handling of sexual violence, chronicles reports of Miles’ misconduct from 2009 until his firing in 2016, including:

  • Allegedly attempting to sexualize the staff of students working for the LSU football team in 2012, demanding he wanted only “blondes with the big boobs” and “pretty girls.”
  • An incident involving Miles and a female student employee, which the employee reported to a senior LSU football operations official, that left the student in a “dead stare,” and repeating that Miles “(knew) what you did to me.”
  • A directive from then-LSU Athletics Director Joe Alleva for Miles to not have one-on-one contact with student workers, which Miles apparently disregarded
  • “Inappropriate contact and text messages” with a second student worker, which were documented and turned over to LSU Human Resources after Alleva’s directive not to contact student workers
  • Labeling student workers as “a.m. and p.m. girls” and others as “looking like a bad bowling team.”
  • Alleged hostility on Miles’ part toward the senior operations official who reported his conduct

Husch Blackwell’s report noted that there is no record of any of these reports ever being investigated by LSU. The one report detailing an investigation of Miles’ conduct with the second female student worker was intentionally stored offsite at LSU’s outside counsel’s office and with Miles’ attorneys.

Notably, Alleva in 2013 wrote to leading LSU officials and board members multiple times questioning the thought process of keeping Miles — who had just won the SEC conference championship and won a national championship in 2007 — employed as the school’s football coach. 

After his initial outreach apparently went unanswered, Alleva took it a step further in June 2013. Miles, Alleva wrote in a follow-up email published in the report, should be fired for cause, and officials should want to envision what scenario is worse for LSU: “Explaining why we let him go or explaining why we let him stay.”

“I always believe that people are innocent until proven guilty and in this case I believe he is guilty of insubordination, inappropriate behavior, putting the university, athletic dept (sic) and football program at great risk,” Alleva’s email reads, according to the report. “I think we have cause. The court of public opinion would favor us.”

Husch Blackwell’s report ultimately concludes that it’s difficult to decipher the true impact Miles’ conduct had on the climate within LSU’s athletics department. 

“…Both in terms of creating a culture which tolerated sexual misconduct and dissuaded employees from reporting that misconduct,” the report says. “It certainly was not positive.”

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