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LSU’s Exposure in the Our Lady of the Lake Scandal

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Who benefited from the scheme? We don’t know. Yet.

NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Syracuse
Who? Me?
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The Our Lady of the Lake scandal took another turn last week as The Baton Rouge Business Report confirmed that “Individual C” in the court documents is James Alexander, the father of former LSU offensive lineman, Vadal Alexander.

James Alexander received $180,000 from Funes as a part of his scheme to defraud Our Lady of the Lake. This is on top of the $107,000 that Funes sent to the family of Rohan Davey, money which he stated was intended for patients of the Children’s Hospital.

This is some low grade dirty behavior. Funes stole from sick children. The government charged him with stealing $550,000 though OLOL’s internal audit claims the figure is closer to $800,000. Best case, Funes stole half a million dollars from a hospital, and he’s staring at up to 20 years in prison.

So… what does this mean for LSU? Were they defrauding a children’s hospital? Well, no. Funes was laundering the money through intermediaries. He sent the money to Davey’s mother and sister, and they funneled the money back to him in a series of transactions. Rohan Davey himself denies any knowledge of the scheme.

However, we don’t have the same evidence that Alexander sent the money back like the Daveys did. He might have, it’s just that we don’t have a trace of the transactions. It seems likely that the money was unrelated to Vadal, and Funes merely needed another person to launder money through, rather than try to use the funds to acquire a lineman for LSU.

Now, it’s possible that’s what he was doing. It just seems more likely he was using Alexander the same way he used the Daveys, sending money out to a third party who would then funnel the money back to him, in an attempt to launder the money he was stealing from OLOL.

It’s impossible to cut through the haze and tell exactly how much trouble LSU is in because no one knows when the transactions occurred. LSU, of course, denies knowledge of the transactions, as does Les Miles.

LSU issued the boilerplate statement:

“LSU was made aware of specific allegations by OLOL officials in late 2018 and made that information immediately available to the NCAA. As this is an ongoing inquiry, LSU will have no further comment.”

Unsurprisingly, AL.com and Yahoo Sports have gleefully run with that, and lead their stories with the claim the NCAA is involved in an “ongoing inquiry.”

That’s simple cheerleading. If there were an inquiry, then the NCAA has to send the member school a Letter of Inquiry. That letter is not publicly issued, but is often leaked by the school to the media. There is no indication LSU has received a Letter of Inquiry, other than a PR flak using the work “inquiry” as a way to avoid saying “investigation.”

There’s no reason to think there is a formal investigation going on right now, or even an informal one. LSU became aware of some shady things going on at OLOL that may have implicated LSU, and they forwarded the information to NCAA compliance, like they are supposed to. There’s no indication we’ve gone anywhere past that pro forma act of compliance.

This does not mean that LSU has nothing to worry about. Of course they do. The most likely scenario is that Vadal Alexander’s father took money from Funes and either had or was going to funnel the money back, like the earlier scheme. But “most likely” is not “definitely happened.” This could have been a payment to entice or reward Vadal for attending LSU.

Thanks to Cam Newton’s dad, a payment to the parent is the same as a payment to the player. This would be an improper benefit, and LSU would be on the hook for it, even if it was a rogue booster on whom they exerted no control. Ask Miami about that one.

Miami is an instructive case. Shapiro gave hundreds of thousands in cash and gifts to multiple players over multiple years. Miami got tagged with “lack of institutional control,” and lost three scholarships per year for three years but suffered no postseason ban. That seems the upper limit of punishment LSU could be facing.

Aside from the factual argument of whether James Alexander’s participation in the OLOL fraud had anything to do with his son or LSU football at all, LSU also has a limitations argument. Vadal’s last season was 2015 and any benefits he may have received after then aren’t within the purview of the NCAA. You can pay a former LSU player whatever you want and not run afoul of NCAA rules.

The NCAA statute of limitations runs for four years from the Notice of Inquiry or “…the date the institution notifies…the enforcement staff of its inquiries into the matter.” LSU has admitted it sent notification to the enforcement staff in 2018, pushing the limitations period back to 2014.

We don’t know when James Alexander received payments from Funes, but if any of those payments occurred between 2014-15, within the limitations period and during Vadal’s enrollment at LSU, then it can be the basis of allegations and potential penalties. It seems highly likely that some payments took place during that time period.

Based upon the public record, and a lot could change if there were an actual investigation, LSU does not have a viable limitations argument. The school’s best argument is that James Alexander was involved in a fraudulent scheme completely unrelated to his son or LSU. On that front, we simply don’t have any solid information.

LSU’s best argument is that we know of the Davey scheme, and they paid some of the money back, so it seems likely he used Alexander as a similar intermediary. Additionally, the feds have only charged Funes with a crime, not Individuals A-C. If the money ended up in their coffers, then it seems that they would be facing the same criminal charges as Funes. Funes is unlikely to do 20 years so he could give money to Vadal Alexander. The scheme was to enrich himself and if it was to enrich someone else, he would almost certainly be talking right now and cutting a deal.

Funes stole from sick children and deserves whatever penalty gets thrown his way. If LSU similarly was stealing from the Children’s Hospital, then they also deserve the harshest penalties the NCAA can devise. Were they? From the early evidence, I would say “probably not,” but that also doesn’t mean “definitely not.”

The feds seem to be treating James Alexander not as the ultimate beneficiary of a fraudulent scheme but as a patsy. If the government’s stance should change, then LSU is going to football jail, and they will have earned it.