An associate athletic director at LSU says her supervisors retaliated against her when she brought sexual harassment and mistreatment allegations against former football coach Les Miles to their attention. Lawyers for Sharon Lewis said Monday they intend to file a federal lawsuit that seeks $50 million from a host of defendants, including Miles, LSU’s current and previous athletic director, and members of the LSU Board of Supervisors.
Lewis is in charge of the LSU football recruiting office and her duties include hiring its student workers. She claims Miles told her “there were too many Black girls employed in Athletics” and instructed her to fire them, according to a copy of the lawsuit WDSU obtained.
The lawsuit also alleges Miles told LSU coaches and athletic department staff in a meeting that “he had ugly girls here” and said he handled interviews of female student workers when he was coach at Oklahoma State. Lewis said she reported what Miles said at the meeting, and other statements, to her supervisor, deputy athletic director Verge Ausberry, who “took no action against Miles.”
“After LSU lost the 2021 National Championship game, Miles’ fixation on student workers grew, and he complained to (Lewis) that the student female workers were too fat, too ugly, too Black and demanded (she) hire ‘blond girls’ with ‘big boobs,'” the lawsuit said.
These and other incidents involving Miles were included in an investigative report provided to the LSU Board of Supervisors last month. The university hired the Husch Blackwell law firm to conduct that probe after USA Today published an extensive story last August that revealed how the athletic department failed to report several instances of sexual misconduct involving student-athletes as required under federal civil rights law.
LSU’s discipline after the report’s release consisted of a 30-day unpaid suspension for Ausberry and a 21-day unpaid suspension for senior associate athletic director Miriam Segar, who is also a defendant in Lewis’ lawsuit.
A Louisiana Senate committee has met twice in the past month to press LSU administrators for harsher and more widespread discipline. The panel invited current LSU football coach Ed Orgeron and Athletic Director Scott Woodward to appear at its next meeting Thursday. Both declined and instead sent letters to the committee’s chairperson.
After Lewis’ lawyers held a press conference Wednesday in Baton Rouge to preview her lawsuit, LSU’s attorney said board members and employees were also invited to appear before the committee would be skipping it as well. Winston DeCuir said in a letter to chairperson Sen. Regina Barrow that he was advising his client to “take all prudent steps to defend these legal claims.”
“Allowing persons who will inevitably be witnesses in to testify under oath on facts related to these claims, is simply not a prudent risk,” DeCuir wrote.
Miles was the subject of a separate, earlier investigation that followed complaints from two female student workers. The law firm Taylor Porter handled that matter and found that Miles did act inappropriately but did not engage in sexual relationships with the women.
Taylor Porter and member attorney Vicki Crochet are also defendants in Lewis’ lawsuit. They were also invited to address the Senate committee Thursday. Crochet sent a letter to the committee Tuesday saying she would not attend.
USA Today sued LSU to make results of the Taylor Porter investigation public, which the university did the day before the Husch Blackwell report was released.
Miles was ultimately forced to resign as football coach at the University of Kansas, and the same fate unfolded for former LSU President F. King Alexander, who had taken the same role at Oregon State.
Miles has denied any wrongdoing while at LSU. His attorney, Peter Ginsberg, issued the following statement on his behalf Wednesday in response to Lewis’ lawsuit:
“This lawsuit is a work of fiction eight years in the making. The manner in which Ms. Lewis and her counsel have slowly rolled out this lawsuit is telling, culminating in her counsel holding a press conference rather than having the pleading speak for itself and pronouncing that the lawsuit is for ‘other women,’ implicitly acknowledging that the named plaintiff is a deeply flawed party without a valid claim,” Ginsberg’s statement said. “Les Miles has no liability in this matter, the accusations against him are false and meritless, and he will be responding by bringing his own claims addressing Ms. Lewis’ malicious and false accusations.”