The University of Kansas and head football coach Les Miles have mutually agreed to part ways, the school announced Monday night.
Neither Kansas nor Miles cited a reason for his departure. But the announcement comes just four days after damning reports about his behavior with female students while he was at Louisiana State University prompted Kansas to place him on administrative leave.
“I am extremely disappointed for our university, fans and everyone involved with our football program,” Kansas athletics director Jeff Long said in a joint statement with Miles. “There is a lot of young talent on this football team, and I have no doubt we will identify the right individual to lead this program. We will begin the search for a new head coach immediately with an outside firm to assist in this process. We need to win football games, and that is exactly what we’re going to do.”
Miles, who won the national title in 2007 and was The Associated Press National Coach of the Year in 2011, was 3-18 in two seasons at Kansas, including a winless record in 2020. He was due to be paid a little more than $8 million on a contract that runs through Dec. 31, 2023.
“This is certainly a difficult day for me and for my family,” Miles said as part of the school’s statement. “I love this university and the young men in our football program. I have truly enjoyed being the head coach at KU and know that it is in a better place now than when I arrived. To our student-athletes, I want you to remember that you came to play for KU and earn a degree here. So, I implore you to stay and build on what we started and do all of the things we talked about doing together. There is a bright future for all of you and for KU Football.”
Peter Ginsberg, Miles’ longtime attorney, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from USA TODAY on Monday night.
Miles was once of the most successful and popular coaches in college football. He reached the national championship game twice, and has a career record of 145-73. Dubbed the “Mad Hatter,” he was known for his gutsy fourth-down calls, eccentric press conferences and goofy antics, including eating pieces of grass during games.
But his reputation — and his future at Kansas — began crumbling Feb. 24, when USA TODAY reported that Miles was the subject of a 2013 internal investigation at LSU over sexual misconduct allegations. Investigators for outside law firm Taylor Porter deemed Miles’ conduct inappropriate, and LSU issued a letter of reprimand.
The Taylor Porter findings were made public last Thursday, and LSU released a report Friday on a separate investigation, this one by outside law firm Husch Blackwell, that further detailed concerns about Miles’ conduct.
According to Husch Blackwell, which was hired in November to review its handling of sexual misconduct cases, the school “chronicled significant alleged misconduct” by Miles from 2009 on. That included Miles’ attempts to sexualize the staff of students working for the LSU football team in 2012, allegedly demanding he wanted “blondes with big boobs” and “pretty girls.”
The team’s longtime director of football recruiting, Sharon Lewis, in 2019 reported “significant alleged misconduct” by Miles spanning nearly seven years beginning in 2009. Lewis’ report to the deputy Title IX coordinator included Miles’ comments about his preferred “look” for female student workers and that he took a more direct role in the hiring of those student workers after losing the 2012 national championship game.
Kansas has said it was unaware of the allegations against Miles at LSU when it hired him in 2018, and Long said Friday the school only saw the reports detailing them when they were released to the public last week. Because of that, Long said in his Friday statement, Kansas wanted to do a “full review.”
“Even though the allegations against him occurred at LSU, we take these matters very seriously at KU,” Long said in his statement last week announcing the administrative leave for Miles.
“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.”
Ginsberg blasted Kansas’ decision Saturday to place Miles on leave, calling it “disturbing and unfair,” and saying the school was bowing to “media blowback.” He also repeated previous assertions that Taylor Porter had found Miles did nothing wrong.
ROUGH WATERS AT LSU:LSU AD wanted to fire Les Miles in 2013 for misconduct. The school didn’t act.
“Taylor Porter concluded that coach Miles did not engage in any conduct that constituted sexual harassment and that there were no grounds to discipline coach Miles,” Ginsberg said in his statement. “Now, eight years later, LSU, in the wake of enormous pressure from the NCAA for conduct that has nothing to do with coach Miles, issued a report conducted by Husch Blackwell.
“(Husch Blackwell) second-guessed the Taylor Porter findings and conclusions without any basis for doing so.”
But that mischaracterizes the investigations.
While Husch Blackwell says “LSU’s outside counsel ultimately concluded that Student 2’s allegations, even if true, would not constitute prohibited sexual harassment under applicable law,” there is nothing in the unredacted portions of the Taylor Porter report that says that. Husch Blackwell also said it disagreed with that conclusion.
Taylor Porter investigators did say they couldn’t make a judgment on what happened between Miles and a student who said Miles kissed her twice after suggesting “they go to a hotel together and mentioned his condo as another meeting place. He also complimented her on her appearance and said he was attracted to her.” Even if they were to accept Miles’ version of events, Taylor Porter investigators wrote, “it appears that he has shown poor judgment.”
Even before the Taylor Porter investigation, then-athletic director Joe Alleva had previously barred Miles from being alone with student workers. Husch Blackwell found Alleva was so concerned by the incident that prompted the Taylor Porter investigation that he urged LSU to fire Miles in 2013.
“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,” Alleva wrote in a June 2013 email to then-LSU President F. King Alexander and the school’s general counsel. “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 remained at LSU until 2016, when he was fired after a 2-2 start.
Alexander, now the president at Oregon State University, said in a letter to that school’s community Monday that he now regrets LSU not acting sooner.
“The results of the initial inquiry into coach Miles were inconsistent with my and LSU’s community values and should have been acted on further,” Alexander wrote. “In hindsight, beyond limitations that were put into place between the coach and students, I now regret that we did not take stronger action earlier against coach Miles, including suspension leading to further investigation and dismissal for violations of university policy.”
It’s not clear what Ginsberg meant by his reference to “enormous pressure from the NCAA.” LSU hired Husch Blackwell after reporting by USA TODAY found a widespread pattern of handling sexual misconduct complaints at the school.
Asked specifically about the NCAA’s involvement, interim LSU president Thomas Galligan said Friday that “the NCAA is not involved in this at this point, I do not anticipate them being involved in this. But if they are, we’ll open our books and we will fully cooperate in any investigation that they have.”
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