KU football coach Les Miles placed on administrative leave pending review
LAWRENCE — Les Miles’ future with Kansas football appears to be on shaky ground.
Miles, whose alleged sexual harassment and misconduct involving female student workers during his time with LSU came to light last week amid that university’s probe into its own systemic mishandling of such situations, was placed on administrative leave Friday by KU athletic director Jeff Long. KU will now conduct "a full review to determine the appropriate next steps," Long said in a statement announcing the disciplinary action against Miles.
Long stated the public releases on Thursday and Friday of two separate investigations into misconduct at LSU were "the first time that (KU officials) have had access to either report."
"Even though the allegations against him occurred at LSU, we take these matters very seriously at KU," Long wrote. "Now that we have access to this information, we will take the coming days to fully review the material and to see if any additional information is available. I do not want to speculate on a timeline for our review because it is imperative we do our due diligence. We will be able to comment further once our review is complete."
KU’s decision to place Miles on leave appeared inevitable following recent revelations.
A USA TODAY report on Feb. 24 outlined how, three years before LSU fired Miles after a 2-2 start to the 2016 campaign, the head coach was alleged to have sexually harassed student workers and made sexist comments about others. That same day, The Advocate in Baton Rouge, La., reported Miles about a decade ago reached a settlement with an LSU student who accused him of "hitting on her.”
Scrutiny on Miles intensified Thursday, when USA TODAY cited a 2013 investigation on behalf of LSU by law firm Taylor Porter in its reporting that Miles had been specifically accused of texting female students and taking them to his condo alone. One student, who said Miles had asked her to enter her phone number into his phone using an alias, added Miles had on one occasion kissed her two times while the pair were alone in his parked car behind the LSU athletic complex. The student told investigators Miles had "complimented her on her appearance and said he was attracted to her" and suggested they "go to a hotel together.”
Miles at the time was also alleged by staff within the athletic department of explicitly seeking attractive, blonde and fit female students to work within the LSU recruiting department. He directed that those who didn't meet that criteria, according to the allegations detailed within the Taylor Porter report, should be given fewer hours or be outright terminated from their employment.
The latest development came in the form of Friday’s release of the new investigation into LSU by independent outside law firm Husch Blackwell, which revealed that university’s athletic department was aware of “significant alleged misconduct” by Miles from approximately 2009 until his firing. That report also detailed how, in 2013, then-LSU athletic director Joe Alleva expressed to university leadership his belief that Miles had breached his contract and could be fired without the school being on the hook for any severance payments.
“I want us to think about which scenario is worse for LSU. Explaining why we let him go or explaining why we let him stay,” wrote Alleva, who added: “I think we have cause. I specifically told him not to text, call or be alone with any student workers and he obviously didn’t listen. I know there are many possible outcomes and much risk either way, but I believe it is in the best interest in the long run to make a break.”
Miles, though, wasn’t fired but was instead issued a written reprimand, directed to attend counseling and formally ordered to not have any further one-on-one contact, calls or text message exchanges with female student workers.
Miles amassed a 114-34 record during his 12-year run at LSU, winning a national championship in 2007 and notching a runner-up finish in 2011. In early 2013, shortly before that message from Alleva to then-university President F. King Alexander and the school’s legal council, Miles was rewarded with a contract extension worth $4.3 million annually that positioned him to remain at LSU through the 2019 season.
As part of the Taylor Porter investigation, Miles denied any wrongdoing and specifically rejected the allegation that he twice kissed a female student worker. Miles argued his relationships with the young women were simply those of a mentor.
A KU spokesperson told USA TODAY last week that the university was unaware of the allegations in Miles’ past when it in November 2018 signed the head coach to a five-year contract worth north of $15 million. Firing Miles without cause would leave the university on the hook for the around $8 million remaining on his contract.
Miles is 3-18 in his two seasons with KU, which hasn’t had a winning season since 2008. Long, whose relationship with Miles dates back to the duo’s time together at Michigan in the 1980s, said at the time of Miles’ hiring that the head coach was the right person to “break the cycle” of futility consuming the woebegone football program.
“Sitting down with Les, he’s a very honest person,” said Long, speaking at Miles’ introductory news conference. “Obviously this was an opportunity for him to get back at a Power Five conference and a chance to build a program, and he’s built programs in the past. So when you’re out and you want back in, you can feel the passion in the conversation, you can feel the want-to, and we certainly did that as we talked about this opportunity.”