Stanley Jacobs, one of the few people briefed on the sexual harassment allegations in 2013 against then-LSU coach Les Miles, says he and others made the right decision in keeping the coach and that he was strongly encouraged by attorneys and the then-school president to keep the matter secret.
However, during a wide-ranging interview with Sports Illustrated on Tuesday, Jacobs acknowledged that the scandal’s recent publication has caused him sleepless nights and admits that Miles’s mutual split with Kansas on Monday night made him “pause.”
“It’s kept me up at night. Of course it has,” says Jacobs, a New Orleans attorney who served on the LSU Board of Supervisors for 18 years and played basketball for the Tigers in the 1960s. “Les resigning makes me pause but based on the evidence, I feel like we made the right decision. It’s the evidence we had before us.”
Miles found himself at the center of a report released last week detailing troubling issues inside the LSU athletic program as it relates to handling sexual assault and harassment claims. According to the report, the coach sexualized the football team’s staff of woman student workers, demanding they hire blonds with large breasts. Two student workers also filed sexual misconduct complaints against him—one of which resulted in a debate among university leaders to fire Miles, then in his ninth season as coach and two years removed from competing in the national championship game.
A small handful of people were apprised on the matter, Jacobs says. The list included athletic director Joe Alleva; assistant athletic director Miriam Segar; at least two attorneys from the school’s outside counsel; the school’s in-house counsel, Shelby McKenzie; then-school president, William Jenkins; and three members of the Board of Supervisors, the university’s politicized, policy-approving governing body.
The group met “multiple times” in a face-to-face setting and had “countless phone calls” to discuss the matter and deliberate on Miles’s future.
“We never spent more time on a measure than we did this one. We took it very seriously,” Jacobs says. “We all looked at firing him. Every option was on the table.”
Alleva, in fact, recommended firing Miles for cause, news that emerged last week in emails that the former AD sent to other school officials. Eventually, Miles was banned from any one-on-one interaction with woman students and completed eight hours of sexual harassment counseling.
Jacobs requested that Miles appear before the panel to address the situation, but attorneys told Jacobs that would be “inappropriate,” he says.
Attorneys, along with Jenkins, also demanded that he and other board members keep the ordeal secret, Jacobs says. Attorneys are normally required to adhere to the wishes of their clients, in this case LSU. Jacobs didn’t discuss the matter with anyone until the report last week brought it to light. During the last eight years, he was questioned only once about the matter. That came years ago from another board member, who asked him about it in passing. He said nothing.
Jacobs attributes his silence to an oath he took upon joining the board. If Kansas administrators would have called him to inquire about the issue upon hiring Miles two years ago, Jacobs says he would not have revealed any information.
“I didn’t even tell my wife,” he says. “I didn’t tell anyone in this world. I couldn’t talk to anyone.”
Jacobs says he never spoke to Miles about the issue and he was never made aware of any subsequent complaint filed against the coach. Still, Jacobs expressed disappointment in the coach on Monday, saying he’s “upset with him.”
During a news conference Tuesday, KU athletic director Jeff Long revealed to reporters that Miles had settled with one of the woman student workers who filed a complaint against him. Terms of that settlement were not revealed. Long says a vetting process during the hiring of Miles did not uncover the issue in the coach’s past.
On Tuesday, Jacobs opened up about the process in detail. In 2013, he was the chairman of the LSU board of supervisors athletic committee, a prominent and powerful position on the Baton Rouge campus. He and the others were made aware of the issues surrounding Miles by attorneys with Taylor Porter, a law firm in Baton Rouge that served as the school’s outside counsel.
“At that time, we were advised that Coach Miles had set up a female booster group and had stereotyped the girls that he wanted—namely attractive athletic well-endowed females,” Jacobs says. “We were then advised that two complaints had been filed against Coach Miles, one complaint they had vetted and found that it was not credible. The second complaint we were advised was credible, and they were dealing with the young lady and her father.”
Eventually, a recommendation was made to the board members that the matter did not rise to the level of terminating Miles, “even if the disputed allegations were true,” he says.
“As I recall, our legal counsel also advised us that under these circumstances and in an abundance of caution, we should still nevertheless put a wall of protection around Coach Miles as protecting students was our primary concern,” Jacobs says. “I truly believe that we did everything appropriate to protect our female students.”