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Analyzing the Husch Blackwell Report — Part Three

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Finally... who do we blame?

NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Alabama
Let’s blame the last guy!
Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

As a Baltimore native of a certain age, I am morally required to love The Wire. So, if you will indulge me, a brief comparison to The Wire is in order.

In the show (and real life), the Baltimore police and city government are hopelessly corrupt. They chase stats instead of crime and things keep deteriorating in the city. The irony is that its not because of bad cops or even bad administrators, everyone knows the system is screwed up, but there’s too many social and political pressures at work and its essentially the faceless system which grinds up even the most pure of heart and spits them out as cold, calculated operatives.

Which is to say that we really want someone to blame in the LSU scandal, but the real problem is that the real answer is… nobody. It was a terrible, self-perpetuating system and even people who thought it was wrong simply conformed to the system due to unseen pressures. Because they are human beings.

This is a deeply unsatisfying answer and one that is politically untenable. Of course someone is to blame. Someone set up the system, someone kept it operating. But honestly, we’re going back to systemic flaws which date back to Walter Camp (or, specific to LSU, TP Heard).

The real solution is to adopt the reforms proposed by Husch Blackwell. We need to be focusing on ADDING jobs and creating new programs, not firing people. But that’s not how politics, media, or the society we live in operates. We need to have people to blame. So let’s go find them, in order of power.

F King Alexander

As the president of LSU during the time period of this report, he bears the bulk of responsibility. If we are to blame a system, he is the person responsible for those systems. His name doesn’t appear that often in the report, but his failure of management looms over every failure: a failure of process, of training, of rule-making, of enforcement, and of hiring. It all goes back to the person in charge, and he was asleep at the wheel.

Alexander signed the new Title IX policy in 2015 with the revised PM-73 reporting forms, which are the subject of so much debate. He is also the one who made the decision to promote Jennie Stewart from the Baton Rouge campus coordinator to fill three roles: “(1) Title IX Coordinator for the LSU System, (2) Campus Coordinator for LSU’s Baton Rouge campus, and (3) Clery Coordinator for all LSU System campuses.”

This designation was a perfect encapsulation of LSU’s too little, too late approach. The dear Colleague Letter which transformed Title IX enforcement was in 2011, and it took five years for LSU to act. And they did so by simply dumping more job duties on one person, virtually guaranteeing they would be overtasked. By 2018, Stewart would have FIVE tasks, usually each assigned to a full-time professional at other colleges.

Alexander hired the Beebe Group for its Title IX training and creating the incorrect training on Title IX compliance in 2017. Alexander was also informed of the failures of Title IX on his campus in a letter from a law professor dated June 4, 2015. He took no action.

A year later, Alexander would launch his “Presidential Task Force” on Title IX. In February 2017, it submitted its report. Among its recommendations were:

  • Simplify the PM-73 report
  • Better describe reporting obligations
  • Comply with Act 172 of the 2015 Legislature, specifically develop an inter-campus transfer policy, enter into a MOU with law enforcement, and promulgate a Campus security Policy. None of these policies existed.
  • Avoid conflicts of interest for Title IX Coordinators

In this same timeframe, Stewart made a presentation to Alexander and other bigwigs regarding Title IX. Her presentation, and the slides included are a damning portrait. This was September 23, 2016, and Alexander responded, “We don’t disagree with any of this . . . it gives us a good idea of where we need to go.” LSU would then enact none of these recommendations from either report, and take 19 months to hire a lead Title IX investigator.

If you’re looking for the smoking gun, there it is. Every bad thing stems from this point. Alexander and the Board of Supervisors had full knowledge of LSU’s dreadful Title IX compliance, and they mouthed some platitudes and moved on.

Heck, there was ANOTHER report, an internal audit filed in September of 2017, which reached largely the same conclusions. Again, nothing was done.

The problem here, of course, is Alexander isn’t here anymore. But if we could, LSU should fire him again, just to be safe.

Joe Alleva

Alleva first shows up on page 32:

In addition to having its own training, beginning in 2013, the University Athletics Department under former Athletics Director Joe Alleva promulgated a series of departmental policies which did little to stem any confusion and instead likely compounded it. These directives required Athletics Department employees to report the following incidents to Segar…

This Athletics policy makes no explicit reference to “Title IX,” “PM-73,” or sex-based misconduct, including sexual harassment, sexual assault, stalking, domestic violence, and dating violence.

To reiterate, Segar was not the proper report. But it’s hard to blame any person for reporting Title IX issues to Segar because that’s what they were told to do by their boss. People thought they were complying with the law when, in fact, they were breaking it. That’s on Alleva’s improper direction.

Even after Stewart was hired as the University’s Title IX Coordinator, on June 8, 2016, former Athletics Director Alleva was informing Athletics staff to make reports of sex-based misconduct directly to Segar or Assistant Athletics Director for Human Resources Wendy Nall, as opposed to directly to Stewart…

Alleva’s email concluded: “If you have any questions about this directive, please contact me

directly or, alternatively, contact Miriam Segar or Wendy Nall.”110 No one from the Title IX Office was copied on the message. Although Alleva has asserted that “The Title IX Office knew of the Athletic Department’s policies and procedures and did not recommend any changes,” Stewart stated that she was not consulted regarding or made aware of this directive.

Hey, when I issue a directive on Title IX, I like to keep it secret from the Title IX office, too. Again, these failures stem from leadership, and leadership openly failed.

This coincides with the Les Miles allegations regarding student workers, which Alleva decided to investigate himself with the assistance of Segar, before referring the matter to the Taylor Porter law firm. Alleva accepted their recommendations, but then moved to have Miles fired. He sent this email on April 19, 2013 to Chancellor Jenkins:

He also told F King Alexander:

While I do think Alleva comes out of the Miles situation looking better than just about anyone, it is hard to square that with the larger institutional failures of Title IX under his watch. He’s the one who cut the Title IX office out of the investigative loop, and that is, essentially, the federal case against LSU boiled down to his essence.

His desire to fire Miles, given the context of his greater failures, doesn’t read like a guy deeply committed to Title IX, but a guy in a power play with his head football coach, and trying to use his leverage to boot him out the door. But that is, admittedly, speculation.

Scott Woodward

Most of the report predates his tenure, but his appearance largely absolves him of the sins of the past:

Segar clarified that the mandate for all employees to report directly to the Title IX Coordinator has been made clear since Scott Woodward became Athletics Director in 2019, and that when she receives reports or information implicating a Title IX-related incident now, she assists the student or employee with placing a report directly to the Title IX Coordinator…

We note again that since Scott Woodward took over direction of the Athletics Department in 2019, community members, students, and employees within Athletics have indicated that the situation has improved.

The best argument for Woodward is Stewart’s comment about how things changed regarding Title IX training post-Alleva:

While many interviewees believed Segar was the “Athletics Title IX Coordinator,” she has never been officially delegated those responsibilities. Stewart was clear that it was her preference to present training directly to Athletics staff and student-athletes, but that her efforts on this front had been rebuffed until Scott Woodward became Athletics Director in April 2019.

Given the report, it’s hard to recommend discipline for Woodward, though his refusal to testify to the committee was not the best look. But every mention of him in that report was positive, and give LSU no cause to discipline him, much less fire him.

Les Miles

Much of the media firestorm has focused on Miles, but I’m gonna pass on this one. He’s not the coach anymore and he’s already been fired. The one thing I will note is that he was correct when he asserted the investigation absolved him in 2016. The Taylor Porter report stated that there had been no violation of law or contract.

Now, you can argue they were wrong, but I do think he was able in good faith say that he had been absolved of any wrongdoing after an investigation.

I do think he’s more on the hook for creating a hostile work environment, detailed in the “Tone at the Top in Athletics” section of the report. But there’s also the simple fact that was nearly five years ago. If the tone in athletics is bad in the present day, it has little to do with Miles anymore. And as for the tone then… well, he’s already been fired.

Ed Orgeron

Going back to the original article which spurned all of this, “Guice and Davis included, at least nine LSU football players have been reported to police for sexual misconduct and dating violence since coach Ed Orgeron took over the team four years ago, records show. But the details of how LSU handled complaints against the other seven, including two who played key roles on its 2020 national championship team, remain largely secret.”

We went through the review of each case last week, but ultimately, this statement is pretty steep reach. And as the Husch Blackwell report makes clear, some were handled well, some were not. But that makes a case for a systemic plan to shroud these allegations in secrecy incredibly difficult to make. Most cases that didn’t go forward stalled do to the victim not wanting to move forward.

The worst case is probably the Drake Davis case, and Orgeron pleads ignorance, though with testimonial support:

When asked whether she had ever “inform[ed] Coach Orgeron” of the development, Segar stated she did not “know whether I specifically talked to Coach about Drake, other than to say here are the issues, they are being investigated.” Orgeron similarly did not recall any specific communication with Segar regarding the outcome of this investigation or the counseling directive, although he did recall an instance where Segar called him to report something along the lines of, “Coach, Drake needs to stay away from that girl,” referring to Lewis. As discussed below, this task of trying to keep Davis and Lewis apart was given to assistant football coach Mickey Joseph.

Guice, on the other hand, is where things get sticky for Coach O. Honestly, his best argument was buried in footnote 194:

In that same article, the boyfriend purportedly said LSU head football coach Ed Orgeron brought up the subject of his then girlfriend and Guice “about a year after the alleged assault, telling the athlete he shouldn’t be bothered by it.” Orgeron purportedly said, ‘Everybody’s girlfriend sleeps with other people.” Orgeron credibly denied the allegation in his interview with Husch Blackwell. Instead, he had learned that the player was considering transferring. In trying to figure out why he wanted to transfer, Orgeron said he learned that player’s “girlfriend was cheating on him and the team was teasing him.” Orgeron stated that when he spoke to the player, “it was what I would have told my son. I said, ‘you’re not the only person who has this problem, there is a solution.’” Orgeron made clear: “No one ever told me [Guice] was accused of raping [the player’s] girlfriend.” We have tried several times to reach the player on the phone number we were provided, but each time our calls went to a voicemail that had not been programmed to receive messages.

Now, there’s some plausible deniability going on here, in which people are protecting the coach from the full story, but that doesn’t make it less true.

Which brings us to the Superdome incident.

Generally, I’ve been limiting myself to the Husch Blackwell report, but enough has come out since then that I think we can put things together through the media reports. Orgeron denied speaking to Gloria Scott, who told The USA Today:

“Coach O is telling a lie,” Scott said, as tears rolled down her cheek. “He’s not telling the truth. I don’t have no reason to lie. I know who I was talking to. He knows he talked to me.”

...

“I felt that not playing in that game would hurt him more than anything,” Scott told USA TODAY. “Because if it was my son or my grandsons, and I knew he did that, and they were playing sports, I personally myself would make sure they didn’t play.

“I didn’t think I was asking too much.”

...

Scott said she didn’t want an apology; she wanted accountability. She said Orgeron and Lewis begged her to let Guice apologize, saying he was sad and had his head down. Scott said she refused to speak to him.

“I was never trying to get no money from them,” Scott said. “I only asked him not to play in that game. If he wouldn’t have played in that game, I’d have been satisfied.”

Orgeron’s version is a tad different. He submitted a statement in lieu of testifying before the committee:

Sometime in December 2017, an athletic department representative told me that Mr. Guice had disrespected an older woman and the representative wanted him to apologize. I was not given the details. I trusted our staff, and like them, believed that if Mr. Guice was disrespectful, he should apologize. The representative brought Mr. Guice to my office after our practice. I was given a number to call, I dialed, and a gentleman answered. I do not recall the gentleman giving me his name. I told the gentleman who I was, and that I was calling with Mr. Guice present, so that Mr. Guice could apologize to Ms. Scott. I do not remember my exact words or the entire conversation.

The gentleman said something to the effect that Ms. Scott did not want an apology, and that instead she requested that Mr. Guice not be able to play in the Citrus Bowl. The gentleman refused to put Ms. Scott on the phone unless I agreed to the terms upfront. I told the gentleman that I would have to get back to him. The conversation ended, as I was not prepared to suspend a student-athlete for a game without a discussion with the University and obtaining more thorough information.

The thing is, we now have the tape of the call… and it’s not good for Scott. It lines up exactly with Orgeron’s statement that they talked to another man, who has since been identified as Cleavon Williams.

“It’s not blackmail,” Williams responded. “ … We don’t have to sugarcoat it. It is what it is. Now, in reference to her supporting what I’m saying, that’s not a problem at all. Because I’m not making none of this up, OK? Now, at the end of the day, I expressed the biggest concern: What is the value of Derrius Guice playing in the Citrus Bowl at LSU, ma’am? Then we go from there.”

It sounded so much like blackmail that Miriam Segar reported it to the police. And I don’t know about you, but that sounds like blackmail to me, too. Now, The Advocate spins this as best they can for Scott, because no one in their right mind wants to be seen as defending LSU right now:

Scott says Williams offered that deal without her permission, and, in any event, experts who represent sexual harassment victims say that demands for money in the wake of harassment are common, expected and do not diminish the credibility of a victim’s testimony. The request from Williams, however, appears to have changed LSU’s view of Scott’s complaint against Guice.

But here’s the thing with that caveat. No one is doubting her testimony regarding Guice. So her credibility on that front is not being questioned. What is being questioned is LSU’s credibility in the investigation of the incident, and there, not just making a monetary demand, but making a monetary demand while maintaining deniability about it is… well, it’s pretty sketchy. And it seems like the most plausible scenario. Of course she never mentioned money, she had intermediaries do it for her.

Guice isn’t off the hook. He should suffer whatever legal consequences there are to be faced. But as for LSU? In this instance, I think the facts show that they were at least justified in not paying any money and also ignoring Scott’s demands for sitting Guice out. At that point, they didn’t want to be seen as complying with a blackmail scheme.

Ultimately, the biggest problem for Orgeron is that he credibly answer “I don’t know” a lot. There’s little evidence of him interfering with investigations, but there is evidence of administrative staff lining up to keep Orgeron walled off from incriminating information. That’s a troubling way to run a football program. And in a classic goose/gander scenario… it’s pretty sketchy.

If you squint hard and you want it badly enough, you have enough to fire Orgeron for cause. I don’t think it would be a just result, but at the same time, he’s the highest profile member of LSU mentioned in the report still employed by the university. If you’re going to have accountability, and believe it should start at the top, that means Orgeron has to fall on his sword in the name of the entire athletics department and university. That actually is why you get paid the big bucks.

Also, the scandal stays in the news until you make a high profile firing. That’s how public scandals work. It doesn’t even really matter if it is Orgeron’s fault (it isn’t), but he’s the highest ranking guy still there, so if someone is to be held accountable, it’s him.

Verge Ausberry

Seriously, what does a dude have to do to get fired?

Ausberry was a “friend/mentor” to Complainant 1 of Drake Davis. So much so that she babysat for him.*

*Again, what is up with the Athletic Department and having student employees babysit for them? The Miles thing made the news, but Ausberry had the same arrangement. It’s wildly inappropriate.

When she disclosed Drake Davis’ abuse to Ausberry, he cut off the conversation and told her to contact Miriam Segar, who did reach out to Complainant 1. According to Scott’s interview notes:

Verge Ausberry was interviewed by Scott the following day. According to Scott’s interview notes, Ausberrry “stated he has been a mentor to Complainant 1.” She purportedly “came to him a few weeks ago in tears asking if she could talk with him. She told him about how Sharon had fired her while she was in Europe and [she] felt it was unfair.” Complainant 1 purportedly “told Verge that she felt Sharon had fired her over [an] incident between her and Drake Davis at Tigerland in Fall 2016—[Complainant 1] told Verge it involved Drake throwing a drink at her.” She also purportedly “told Verge that she felt responsible for Drake’s behavior.” Ausberry “stated he immediately told her that he didn’t want to hear anymore and that she needed to speak with Miriam Segar since it sounded like a dating issue and that it dealt with Drake which he already knew there was an investigation.”

Note that he’s throwing Sharon Lewis under the bus pretty aggressively. That would be a trend.

Lewis would claim in the appeal of her Title IX case that she had reported Verge Ausberry to the Title IX office for misconduct issues, but the report could find no record of such complaints through Title IX or HR. Then again, it’s not like LSU kept the best records. (p 65)

Lewis also noted that when she complained about Title IX-related incidents, she purportedly “encountered great resistance from Segar and Ausberry . . . .” She also asked that Segar and Ausberry be investigated by the Title IX Office for failing to make mandatory reports. Despite this being reported to a Deputy Title IX Coordinator, the University has not investigated these allegations. She then relayed in her Title IX

appeal that she “reported a Title IX complaint to Segar against Verge Ausberry” and that there “are several witnesses who have seen Ausberry yell and scream at Lewis, call her profanities, and do other acts of harassment.” Again, despite this being reported to a Deputy Title IX Coordinator, the University never investigated this allegation.

The screaming and yelling was confirmed by several employees interviewed, but the primary incident is a he said/she said incident in which both sides claim the other is responsible:

Ausberry denied treating Lewis inappropriately, instead describing their relationship as “brother-sister” and “love/hate.” Ausberry stated that he had on at least one occasion had “a very hot conversation” with Lewis regarding Lewis’ non-compliance with a directive, during which Lewis “blew up on me” and was “crying, howling, and cursing,” to

which Ausberry responded with anger and a raised voice. Ausberry recalled that after this incident, Lewis “called Miriam [Segar], and said she wanted to report me for harassment.” According to Ausberry, Segar instructed Ausberry to “just leave [Sharon] alone” after this incident.

Let’s just say they didn’t have the best working relationship.

Ausberry continues to play a starring role in the report, as he received a text from Drake Davis on April 14, 2018 regarding his abuse of Jade Lewis, including an admission he hit her in the stomach. Ausberry would never report this.

Miriam Segar would make the PM-73 report on April 26, 12 days after the text exchange. Ausberry was also Scott’s first point of contact after the Superdome incident. Again, he didn’t file a Title IX report.

So… to review. Verge Ausberry failed to file Title IX reports in the two most egregious cases of sexual violence, Drake Davis and Derrius Guice. He had a student worker babysit for him which alone is grounds for discipline, and shows his poor judgment. He acted inappropriately in the case of Complainant 1, though not as egregiously as he would later. And he screamed and yelled at Sharon Lewis, likely as a result of her continued Title IX complaints.

I mean, geez, man. It’s like he is trying to get fired. The thing is, if you have a massive institutional scandal, and the only person who gets fired is the highest ranking black man, well, now you have a different PR scandal on your hands.

Verge Ausberry absolutely should be fired. But he also cannot be the scapegoat. He should not be the only one out the door, which is what strengthens the case to fire Ed Orgeron.

Miriam Segar

How bad was the training for Title IX compliance? Miriam Segar thought she was the Title IX Coordinator, and she wasn’t.

When asked about her understanding of why she was tasked with the responsibility of receiving and reporting all Title IX complaints in the Athletics Department, Segar stated that she “thought [she] was a Deputy Title IX Coordinator for Athletics” until “fairly recently,” when Stewart informed her she was not a deputy other than for “equity issues in participation” only. Segar explained that the “message” to employees was “you can’t solve these problems on your own” and “we do not handle these things in house,” so Athletics employees “were told to report to me” to make the reporting process easier. Segar stated she understood “it was more of a risk to me” to have this responsibility, but expressed confidence that “I reported everything.” Segar also noted, “My name is on all the reports submitted to Title IX from Athletics—no one [from Title IX] ever questioned the practice.

But I also have some sympathy for Segar here. She wasn’t trying to sweep stuff under the rug, she simply thought she was the proper report because, well, that’s what she had been told by her superiors. And she did keep proper records and there’s no evidence of her intentionally scuffling investigations. She was just the wrong person to be coordinating these things.

She’s central to almost every instance, but nearly every time, she’s reporting or investigating. When Sharon Lewis brought forth Student 1 and Student 2’s complaints about Miles, Segar reported and assisted Taylor Porter with the investigation. Improperly, it turns out, as that’s not proper Title IX protocol, but she wasn’t simply ignoring complaints, she investigated, and then meted out discipline.

Much is made of a drink-throwing incident involving Complainant 1 and Davis, but no one reported it to Segar, notably Dameyune Craig, who had a clear obligation.

Lewis claims she called Segar and told her about the incident. But that’s not what she told Scott at the time:

According to Lewis, Complainant 1 “admitted to throwing [a] drink at Drake [because] he was with another girl.” According to Lewis, “because [there was] no physical altercation or sexual assault,” “she let [Craig] handle” the situation because “this was the way athletics handled things.” Scott’s notes of the Lewis interview indicate that Lewis said “she was not sure if she reported [the incident between Complainant 1 and Davis] to Miriam or Verge.”

In her interview as part of Husch Blackwell’s review Lewis adamantly denied saying this. Instead, she emphasized that she reported the incident via phone to Miriam Segar moments after the meeting occurred. Regardless, it was clearly not reported to the Title IX Office until Sumler brought Complainant 1 to the Title IX Office.

In her appeal in 2018, Lewis disputes this account:

Lewis called Segar “to give her the information that had just been [relayed] to me in a meeting with Complainant 1 and Keava Soil-Cormier where Complainant 1 [relayed] that an incident had occurred with Drake Davis.” Soil-Cormier purportedly witnessed this call with Segar. According to Complainant 1, she contacted Segar “because she is the LSU Athletic designated reporter for Title IX complaints.” Lewis then claimed that Scott’s summary of her interview was “false” and that she “told Scott I called Miriam Segar and reported the incident to her and that I reported the incident to Verge Ausberry.”163 Lewis also claimed that she is “very mindful” about reporting because she had “been reprimanded in the past for not telling Miriam Segar directly . . . .”

Segar’s biggest errors are not the incidents involving athletes, as it seems like she always moved things up the chain and documented the investigation, but the Sharon Lewis investigation:

During her interview with Husch Blackwell, Segar confirmed that after the Miles incident, Lewis had reported alleged “harassment” and other inappropriate treatment by Athletics officials, including a specific complaint against Ausberry. During the interview, Segar read from notes summarizing Lewis’ complaints, stating that from her perspective, “it wasn’t a Title IX issue.” In addition, Segar acknowledged that Lewis was not “super comfortable” around Miles and “did not have a good relationship” with him because Miles “knew that she was aware of the allegations against him.” Segar further acknowledged assuring Lewis that “her job was protected,” and also acknowledged arranging counseling for Lewis because she “was emotional” about the way in which the University handled the Miles investigation. Segar confirmed that she did not report any of these complaints to the Title IX Office or to Human Resources for resolution. This was an error.

The Ausberry-Lewis dispute probably was a Title IX issue and should have been reported. The fact Segar told Ausberry to leave Lewis alone strikes me as she viewed this as two coworkers who couldn’t get along more than an institutional issue, and she minimized something that was larger.

In fairness to Segar, the Title IX office denied Lewis’ appeal regarding her failure to report. On the other hand, Husch Blackwell takes exception to that ruling.

On January 15, 2019, LSU’s Title IX Coordinator denied Lewis’s appeal contending that even if all that Complainant 1 reported was “limited to the throwing of a drink in the bar,” that was sufficient to trigger a mandatory report under PM-73. Because she was the appeal officer, the Title IX Coordinator provided no supervision over Scott’s initial investigation due to the potential conflict of interest.

Inexplicably, the Title IX Coordinator concluded that this “report could have been made through Miriam Segar, Verge Ausberry, or directly through the Title IX Coordinator or Deputy Coordinators” (emphasis added). According to Stewart, though, there was “no evidence” that such a report was made. However, at that point, Lewis had identified by name two witnesses who purportedly saw her report the matter to Segar. Neither were interviewed by the Title IX Office. This determination was then “forwarded to Human Resource Management for adjudication.”

The ruling is clearly off-base because here is the Title IX office telling Miriam Segar that she is the proper report, when she wasn’t. So its no wonder she thought she was the person to report to, as even the Title IX office endorsed such a view.

I do think the report is letting Lewis off light. I agree she shouldn’t have been reprimanded or had a Title IX complaint against her, which is frankly ridiculous, but at the same time, she told Scott she wasn’t sure and one of her witnesses can’t say what was detailed in the phone call to Segar. There’s also the simple matter of failing to leave any sort of paper trail. I think it’s more fair to say the phone call is disputed (rather than no evidence), so it is hard to find fault with either Lewis or Segar.

Lewis is now suing LSU for $50 million for a conspiracy that she herself was allegedly a part of and that she was not the victim of. I do think she has a pretty decent case for retaliation on the Title IX complaint against her, though I don’t know the limitations argument on that one, and she is going to have fact problems with Segar assuring her about her job security and also arranging for her to receive counseling at LSU’s expense. All I can say to her is, good luck.

As for Segar, discipline is certainly in order for mismanaging the Ausberry-Lewis dispute, but her biggest failure is thinking she held a job she didn’t have because that’s what her superiors told her. But we are also, again, in a major Title IX scandal and you held yourself out as the Title IX Coordinator. That has consequences. I don’t think she’s as culpable as her superiors or Ausberry, but her superiors are all gone. She’s left holding the bag.

Julia and Mike Sell

Two of the people who came off the worst in the original USA Today article were the tennis coaches, Julia and Mike Sell. The article alleged that the Sells covered up Drake Davis’ abuse of Jade Lewis dating back to May of 2017. The report could not confirm this allegation:

The teammate, who requested to remain anonymous, told us in an interview that she was deeply uncomfortable with the escalation in Jade and Davis’ relationship and took steps to “block” Davis from her phone. She also strongly encouraged Jade to report the information to the police or the school and “to get help,” but “Jade refused.” The teammate stated she “didn’t know how much [LSU tennis coach Julia Sell] knew” about this May 2017 incident, but stated that she had never directly told Julia that Davis abused Jade. Jade’s teammate also reported having a “very good relationship with the Sells, even today” and stated her belief that if Julia Sell had become aware of any alleged violence, she would have handled it appropriately (due largely to her own experience sharing information with Julia Sell).

In the USA Today article, a teammate (who was anonymous in the article) said “she personally reported Davis’ abuse to Julia Sell” at least “six to seven months before” June 2018. This would have been November or December of 2017. We have been unable to definitively identify the person who made these statements, and they have not identified themselves to Husch Blackwell for an interview. None of the witnesses we have interviewed regarding this matter, though, said they informed the Sells about abuse prior to Jade’s return to Baton Rouge in March 2018.

The article further alleged that Jade Lewis complained of injuries from the May 2017 incident to trainer Donovan White. Davis denied this account because he was not working with the tennis team in May of 2017, which is a pretty good alibi. The trainer was Sean Carter.

Everyone does agree that Jade Lewis’ father expressed his concerned to the Sells in June of 2017 at least, though they dispute how much he revealed. Mr. Lewis claims he reported the abuse, the Sells claim it was complaints about the relationship and “red flags” without a specific allegation of abuse.

The report did turn up emails from June of 2017 which back up the “red flags” version of events. But that is academic, because by July of 2017, we have text messages from David Lewis regarding assault. Mike Sell disputes the content of phone calls, but that strains credibility, as Mr. Lewis was complaining to everyone about the physical abuse of his daughter, even outside LSU.

Sell added that over the several months that Jade was playing on the pro tour, Mr. Lewis described Davis as a “distraction” to Jade and emphasized that he “did not want her coming back [to LSU] for a boy.” Sell stated again that at no point did David Lewis

communicate that Davis was “abusing” Jade. Sell noted that at the time Davis was not a “big time” football player, stating that he had no awareness of Davis at all.

Weighing all of this information and documentation, we first find that there is insufficient evidence to conclude that David Lewis communicated that Jade Lewis was being abused by Davis in June 2017, as indicated by David Lewis’ August 2018 statement memorialized in the LSUPD report.

They are entitled to their opinion, but I don’t agree with this call. To me, it seems clear that Lewis was telling everybody about the abuse, and the person with a credibility problem is Mike Sell, not David Lewis. I believe his account, though the lawyers didn’t. I do think it is clear that there was no report to the rest of LSU. If Drake Davis was assaulting Jade Lewis in 2017, it wasn’t the football program sweeping it under the rug.

By April 2018, the cat is clearly out of the bag with Segar’s first report, However, its not until June 19, 2018, that Julia Sell admits that she first became aware of Davis’ abuse. I don’t even know how that is possible.

The sells show up again in regards to Complainant 2 and Derrius Guice. The Sells had intervened and got the player into counselling for alcohol abuse, which lead to the charges of rape against Guice, and this chilling exchange:

Around that time, though, it is undisputed that Complainant 2’s father met with Julia Sell during the Southeastern Conference women’s tennis championships which was held from April 19–23, 2017 in Nashville. During this meeting, Complainant 2’s father wanted to thank Sell for taking his daughter to rehabilitation. In addition, Complainant 2’s father said that he told Julia Sell that his daughter “was raped by one of LSU’s football players.” At the time, Complainant 2’s father “did not know [the football player’s] name.” Complainant 2’s father said Sell responded, “I don’t believe her. She’s a liar.”

Shoot them into the sun. And while outside the report, The Reveille followed up with this investigative report. I don’t see how you can justify their continued employment.

The Sells do deny ever making this comment, but the report points out the father had no incentive to lie, their relationship completely soured from this point on, and witnesses at the event saw the agitated confrontation, even if they can’t verify what was said. The parent is more credible. This should be the easiest of calls for LSU.

Jennie Stewart, Jeff Scott, and Jonathan Sanders

Speaking of scapegoats. Look, you could fire the two of them as the Title IX Coordinator and lead investigator. You had a massive Title IX scandal, this was their purview, and they are ultimately responsible. I get that.

But the problem with these two wasn’t some sinister motive, but the fact that the two of them were dreadfully overtasked so they were saddled with responsibilities normally spread over three or four people rather than just one. The system was designed to fail, and fail it did.

The problem with the Title IX office wasn’t that they were negligent or failed to perform, it’s that they lacked funding and institutional support. The solution here is more people in the office, not less.

Stewart properly identified the issues with Title IX compliance, told her superiors, and no one did anything. Scott has the issue of only being able to be in one place. They both should avoid sanction.

Not so much for Jonathan Sanders, who was in charge of punishment. Sanders keeps showing up in the report, minimizing the offenses and not wanting to stir up trouble for the players. On Drake Davis, particularly, Segar was practically begging for someone to do something, only to be consistently rebuffed by Sanders.

Finally, the school found 46 students responsible for Title IX offenses from 2016-2020. Of those 46, there was 1 suspension and 18 suspensions.

“On top of this lenient approach, several women told USA TODAY that Sanders added to their trauma by disciplining them for minor, unrelated infractions or questioning them in ways that cast doubt on stories found to be credible by Title IX investigators.”

This is completely unacceptable. If we’re looking for someone to blame in the Title IX office, underfunded and understaffed as it was, may I humbly submit Jonathan Sanders.

Final Thoughts

To be clear, firing people doesn’t do anything but make us feel better. I think LSU could effectively and ethically deal with its serious Title IX issues without firing people, but instead focusing on implementing the recommendations of the Husch Blackwell Report, or implementing the reforms suggested back in 2016 and ignored.

I don’t know if you can fire a Board of Supervisors, but a cleaning house on that administrative level wouldn’t hurt anybody. They are the anonymous power brokers who turned a blind eye and are ultimately responsible. They also likely will suffer no consequences.

But I think you need to fire people not just for PR, but to show that you are taking this seriously. And it can’t be low level employees. We’ve never heard of. I also wish to reiterate that I think the problem is not an Athletics issue, it is university wide. I say this not to minimize, but to point out that is worse. But the longer LSU goes without firing some of the people named in the Husch Blackwell Report, the worse this gets.

The federal government is now investigating both Title IX compliance and Clery Act violations. This goes beyond sports and to the entire university, and if LSU is in violation (which we know they are), the school deserves to get hammered. The school itself needs to learn to take Title IX compliance seriously.

Which goes to another point: this has been an analysis of just the Husch Blackwell Report with very little outside documentation. If more things come out from other sources, we should follow up on those as well. Not being mentioned in the Husch Blackwell Report is not a defense, it just means that it had limited space.

The state of Louisiana deserves a safe environment for everyone. It should be free of harassment, violence, and sexual misconduct. Now, that’s an unreasonable goal for a campus of LSU’s size, but it should still be the goal. And when incidents do occur, they need to be properly investigated and reported.

LSU needs to be better. That starts with accountability, but it continues with massive, institutional reform, one in which the people in charge take the demands of Title IX seriously.

Worse, I don’t think the public or the media would have cared one iota about LSU’s Title IX failures had it not implicated the football team. So long as it was ordinary students involved, things would have kept going on indefinitely the same way. And what does that say about all of us?