He didn’t get everything there was to get on the strange two-week ordeal surrounding whether Les Miles would stay or go as LSU’s head coach at the end of the 2015 football season, but WVUE-TV investigative reporter Lee Zurik got enough to show the chaotic quality of the LSU Board of Supervisors and the university’s leadership during the process, which led to a resumption of the status quo with Miles on the job, but the coach damaged by the public nature of the mess and the university’s reputation dragged through the mud.
Louisiana State University has a leak associated with its athletic department – and high-ranking officials say they know who it is.
The university released nearly 2,000 emails to us, and they reveal some of the behind-the-scenes details of how LSU handled Les Miles’ job future. They also reveal discussions of that internal leak, and the emails to and from the school’s athletics director and chancellor reveal some dissension among board members.
The board members and officials seemed to know that their lsu.edu e-mail addresses were subject to public records requests and as such were a little less than verbose in their communications. Even so, the deliberations and arguments say a great deal.
There are complaints from members of the board about a lack of information flowing between them while too much of it is getting out in the public eye, and that this has been a problem in other venues. There is a pointed bit of animus over board member Stanley Jacobs’ having been quoted by USA Today as saying that “Les Miles is our coach…I wish him well” – which occasioned Alexander e-mailing a dozen members of the board, Alleva and Doreen Brasseaux, LSU’s Assistant Vice President for University Administration Relations, with a link to the article and an assessment that “Stanley felt compelled to do his own press release on behalf of the board.” Board member Ann Duplessis responded “I agree…not cool.”
Some of this is understandable. Whatever side of the Miles controversy one comes down on, it was unquestionably a difficult decision. Miles has won a lot of games at LSU, but his program is very clearly stagnant at present and the university’s investment in a top-flight football program has to carry with it some very high standards. There would necessarily be a discussion within the board and those deliberations could be expected to generate some heat.
But while the emails don’t provide a full picture of those deliberations, they do show a board which seems to struggle with communication and also appears to have a degree of contempt for the paying customers – both at the games and on the tax rolls.
For example, here’s Baton Rouge Business Report publisher Rolfe McCollister whining – as journalism professor Bob Mann would later write in the pages of the Times-Picayune (giving rise to questions whether Mann was simply pushing a company line) – that nobody cares who the university’s provost is but Miles’ job generates national headlines…
“The public and fans are divided. What I don’t hear is their position on who we hire for Provost. The key academic position and one king also has to make and we hear nothing [sic]. Only views on football coach. This speaks volume. Same with media. Oh well, we see their priorities.”
Maybe McCollister didn’t consider the possibility his words would get out through a public records request, or maybe he and others at LSU gave Mann the company line to write. But what he might want to consider is that lots of the people whose “priorities” he complains about could come to the conclusion he’s right…and stop caring about LSU altogether.